Late last month, the giant anteater at the Santa Barbara Zoo gave birth to twin pups.
It was an unusual occurrence – twins are rare for the species – and the likelihood for survival of both pups was extremely low. Giant anteaters grow fast. Providing enough milk for more than one infant is difficult for the mother, as she carrying the babies on her back, which she does until they are almost fully grown.
So the larger of the two pups was left with its mother. The smaller was removed to be hand-reared by zoo caretakers.
That was before the massive Thomas Fire burned more than 270,000 acres and put the zoo under threat of evacuation. As precaution the zoo voluntarily relocated several animals, including a pair of visiting reindeer.
And the smaller anteater, pup, which made its way to Fresno Chaffee Zoo on Sunday.
Zoo officials spent a full day traveling to get the pup. They left 6 a.m. By 7 p.m., she was in Fresno.
“They were holding on to her for as long as they could,” says Lyn Myers, general curator at Fresno Chaffee Zoo. The pup needs close monitoring and temperature control, along with bottle feedings every five hours. Those kind of resources become burdensome amid possible evacuation protocols.
“They have to make sure they have their heads around the entire collection,” Myers says. “We can give her the time that she needs without all of the other chaos.”
Also, the zoo is familiar with this kind of care – and with the pup’s family. Its mother, Anara, was born at Chaffee Zoo. She was also a twin and was hand-reared, though her sibling did not survive, Myers says.
The pup will remain at Chaffee Zoo until it is safe for her to leave. Just how long that will be depends on the wildfire and any cleanup that needs to take place afterward, Myers says. As of Monday, the Santa Barbara Zoo remained closed. Decisions about additional closures are being made on a day-to-day basis, according to updates on the zoo’s Facebook page.