Silky Anteater

The smallest of the Anteaters, Cyclopes didactylus or Silky Anteater inhabits primary rain forests with continuous canopy; it lives in tall trees under the leaves to avoid detection. Some believe it has a preference for the Ceiba (Silk Cotton) tree whose fruit produces a fibre that is of the same sheen and colour offering camouflage and protection for the Silky Anteater.

Rainforests from southern Mexico through Central America to South America, Brazil, the Guianas and Paraguay make up the range of this small arboreal Anteater. The Silky Anteater is tiny and ranges in size from 14-18 inches and weighs less than one pound. It has dense, golden fur and a short pig-like snout. Like other anteaters the Silky Anteater has poor eyesight but an excellent sense of smell and hearing.

Silky Anteater (internet photo)
Silky Anteater (internet photo)

Silky Anteaters are nocturnal, arboreal and slow moving; they feed mainly on ants but will eat other insects. Because of the low nutritional value of ants they need to eat thousands of individuals per night, so like all anteaters the Silky Anteater has evolved special tools for living in the treetops and procuring food. The tail is prehensile and is used like an extra limb to help the animal hold onto branches for stability as well as to move around the canopy. Its forepaws include two sharp, enlarged claws which are used for breaking open ant and termite nests in the canopy. They rarely come to the ground and if they do they walk on the outer edge of their forepaws as the claws get in the way.

During the day this little Anteater will sleep curled up in a ball; this habit and the fact that they live in the canopy make sure that they are rarely seen during the day, but may be more likely to be seen moving around at night while foraging. Silky Anteaters are usually solitary animals except when breeding. The female gives birth to one young in a nesting hold of a tree and both parents take up the responsibility of caring for the pup; both the female and male may ferry the young on their backs. As the pup is weaned the parents feed it regurgitated semi-digested insects and by the end of a year the pup is full grown and leaves the family nest to strike out on its own.

Silky Anteaters maybe predated on by birds of prey (Hawks and Harpy Eagle), and when threatened the animal, like its relatives, will stand on its hind legs and raise its claws to its face to defend itself. Silky Anteaters are listed as least threatened by the IUCN Redlist and are most likely to be threatened by habitat destruction.

Rain forests are rich in biodiversity and are home to many different plants and animals as well as indigenous communities. Humans, even those who don’t live in the rain forest, rely on it for resources such as building materials (wood and lianas), medicine and fruits. Rain forests also provide essential environmental services for life on earth; they create soil as well as prevent soil erosion, produce oxygen through photosynthesis, maintain clean water systems, and are a key defence against climate change.  The Iwokrama Rain Forest is 371,000 hectares, located in the heart of Guyana. Our mission is to develop strategies for conservation and sustainable development for local people in Guyana and the world at large. We are involved in timber, tourism and training.  Come and visit us in the rain forest or at http://www .iwokrama.org.

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