Six-month old giant anteater at Belfast Zoo finally named Zira
IT has taken six months, but the name - and gender - of the new baby giant anteater born at Belfast Zoo last December can finally be revealed.
The rare South American mammal - which can grow to seven feet in length and mops up 30,000 insects daily with its long tongue - has been named 'Zira'.
Earlier this year the zoo appealed for help in choosing a fitting moniker for its latest newborn, but was unable to choose between 'Zira' for a 'girl' and 'Dante' for a 'boy', due to mystery surrounding the animal's gender.
Zoo curator Alyn Cairns explained: "The baby giant anteater was born on December 22 to parents Pancho and Kara who has been a fantastic mum, carrying the baby on her back for six months.
"In the wild this acts as camouflage from predators, but it also made it difficult for the team to find out whether the infant was male or female.
"In recent weeks though, the baby has become more independent and we finally got the chance to find out its gender."
Belfast zoo received around 400 votes after appealing for help in choosing a name - and 'Zira' - a lioness in the Lion King Disney animation - was quickly picked out as the favourite.
A variant form of the Hebrew name Tzira, it means 'messenger' and while never featuring in any top 10 baby name lists, its rarity seems to suit the unusual look of its long-snouted host.
"In central and south America, giant anteaters live in the grasslands and rainforests and while this species was once widespread, today populations have declined by 30 per cent," Mr Cairns added.
"There are only 200 giant anteaters living in zoos around the world and Kara and Pancho are the only breeding pair in Ireland.
"Our giant anteaters live with other South American species and we have said ‘hola’ to a number of new arrivals this year, with the birth of seven capybaras and 10 Darwin’s rhea chicks."
Animal lovers can support Belfast Zoo’s giant anteaters by taking part in the animal adoption scheme - to find out more, visit www.belfastzoo.co.uk/adoption, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 028 9077 6277.