Scientists Aim to Learn More About Tiny Anteaters

Photos: Projeto Tamanduá

Very little is know about Silky anteaters, which make their home in the Amazon rainforest, other than the fact that they're tiny, nocturnal, ant-loving, and of course, incredibly cute. But, in hopes of learning more about these fascinating little creatures, soon scientists will be venturing out into the jungles of Brazil to observe them in the wild--where they hope to find its population strong and stable, unlike those of the diminutive anteater's larger cousins, and so many other species that call the region home.The Silky anteater, or Cyclopes pygmaeus, is the smallest species of anteater in the world--weighing in at just over a half-pound, and measuring about 7 inches long, not including its tail which is about that length as well. Giant anteaters, on the other hand, are usually 6 feet long and usually weigh over 100 pounds.

Since so little is known about the tiny, forest-dwelling anteater, researchers fear that it may in fact be endangered due to the same factors that threaten other unique species in the region, such as development and deforestation. According to a report from Globo, members of the group the Projeto Tamanduá (Anteater Project) say that the Silky anteater is occasionally adopted as a pet, or worse, eaten by locals.

Project member Flávia Miranda:

This can result in decreased species. The animal is not aggressive with children, but we do not know their habits.

Miranda says the Silky anteater can be found throughout Venezuala and Peru, but that there are no statistics regarding their population in the most highly threatened regions--such as the dwindling Atlantic Forests of eastern Brazil.

"There are no descriptions about the basic ecology, disease and genetics of the species," says Miranda, so much of the research will involve interviewing residents in the Amazon who may be able to offer insights into the animal's behavior. Hopefully, Miranda and her team will discover the Silky anteater population healthy and strong--and return with a newfound understanding of the species, which may help ensure it stays that way.

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Tags: Animals | Brazil | Conservation

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