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Posted at 4:12 PM ET, 12/23/2010

Anteater, pup out of Zoo's hospital

By Michael E. Ruane

A male giant anteater pup, born Dec. 7 at the National Zoo, has been released with his mother from the zoo’s veterinary hospital, where both had been under observation for the last two weeks, the zoo said Thursday.

The pup had been born without event about 7:30 p.m. to the zoo’s female giant anteater, Maripi, and both had seemed fine after the birth, the zoo said in a statement.

The pup started to climb Maripi’s tail, as expected, and both animals seemed to settle down for the night. But the next morning the pup was found outside the nest with a low body temperature while the mother was asleep nearby.

Both were taken to the hospital, where the cub was treated and the mother examined. They were reunited and zoo experts observed that Maripi was producing milk and the pup appeared to be nursing.

Both stayed in the hospital until the pup improved, and were returned to their enclosure Thursday.

“We will continue to closely watch Maripi and her pup in their indoor enclosure,” said curator Craig Saffoe, according to the statement. “Thanks to the quick response by the keepers and vet staff the morning after the pup’s birth — coupled with continuous attention over the past few weeks — the two look like they are gaining strength each day. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but remain cautiously optimistic for a complete recovery.”

Giant anteaters live in the grassland savannas, swamps, humid forests and wetlands of Latin America — from Belize to Argentina. Anteaters use their keen sense of smell to detect termite mounds and anthills and tear them open with strong claws. They then gather their prey using a 2-foot-long tongue covered with very sticky saliva.

Maripi and her mate, Dante, have lived at the National Zoo since 2006 and are on loan from the Nashville Zoo.

By Michael E. Ruane  | December 23, 2010; 4:12 PM ET
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