Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Southern Tamandua

Tamandua tetradactyla

Tamanduas are an arborial species of lesser anteater, meaning they spend most of their time in trees! They are mostly nocturnal, active at night and sleepy during the day. They are referred to as lesser anteaters because they look like a smaller version of their relative the giant anteater, which hails from the same part of the world.

Range & Habitat

Tamanduas are found throughout much of South America, with two distinct species; the Northern tamandua and the Southern tamandua. They live in forests, savannas, tropical rainforests, scrub forests and mangroves, most commonly near streams and rivers. They have been documented at elevations up to 6,500 feet.

Conservation Status: Least Concern


In the Wild: Social insects such as ants, termites and bees as well as honey and some fruits. They have long, thin tongues that they use to forage for their food – and no teeth. They use their forelimbs and claws to excavate insect nests, then use their long snout and tongue to slurp up prey.

At the Zoo: Keepers make them “smoothies” of insectivore diet, ground beef, honey, yogurt, milk replacer and Vitamin K.

Life Span

In the Wild: 9 years
In Human Care: 10+ years

Fun Facts about the Southern Tamandua

  •     Tamanduas, and all anteaters, belong to the suborder Vermilingua, which means "worm-tongue," because they have such long tongues.
  •  The name “tamandua” means “catcher of ants” in the Tupí language of eastern Brazil.
  •  The undersides of their tails have no fur, allowing them to grip tree branches more securely.
  •  Their long, sharp claws help them forage and climb trees, but make them clumsy on the ground, where they have to walk on the outside of their feet to avoid scratching themselves with their own claws!


Smithsonian National Zoo: Southern Tamandua

Denver Zoo: Southern Tamandua

Encyclopedia Britannica: Southern Tamandua


Updated June 13, 2023
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