Lesser anteater
Tamandua tetradactyla

T. tetradactyla is found to the east of the Andes from Colombia, Venezuela, Trinidad Island, and the Guianas (French Guiana, Guyana, and Suriname), south to northern Uruguay and northern Argentina. It ranges from sea level to 2,000 m asl (Emmons and Feer, 1990).


Typically, this solitary species has pale tan or golden fur with a black vest, but uniformly tan to black coloration also occurs (Wetzel, 1985).


The southern or lesser anteater is adaptable to a variety of habitats, including gallery forests adjacent to savannas, and lowland and montane moist tropical rain forest (Eisenberg, 1989). It can also be found in mangroves (F. Miranda, pers. comm., 2010).


T. tetradactyla is a relatively common species. It mainly feeds on ants and termites, but also attacks bees nests to eat honey (Emmons and Feer, 1990). Both genders reach sexual maturity at two years of age. The female gives birth to a single young once per year (Silveira, 1968). Gestation length estimates vary from 130 to 150 days.


There are no major threats to this small anteater, although in some portions of its range it is hunted for meat, by domestic dogs, or (inappropriately) used as a pet species (Aguiar and Fonseca, 2008; Noss et al., 2008; D.A. Meritt Jr., pers. comm., 2010). Tamanduas that are found in the wild are donated or sold to private persons or zoos, and may be involved in animal traffic. Habitat loss and degradation, wildfires, and road traffic represent a threat in some areas. In Uruguay, T. tetradactyla is affected by habitat loss due to the increase in eucalyptus plantations (A. Fallabrino, pers. comm., 2010).


T. tetradactyla is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, its occurrence in a number of protected areas, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a threatened category.
This species is present in a number of protected areas. Further systematic studies on the southern tamandua are needed to investigate population densities and dynamics in different parts of its range. Studbooks for captive tamanduas exist in some range countries, and a Population Management Plan has been established in AZA zoos.


Additional information and a complete list of references can be found in: Superina, M., F.R. Miranda, and A.M. Abba (2010): The 2010 Anteater Red List Assessment. Edentata 11(2): 96-114. This article is available here.

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