Myrmecophaga tridactyla


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name/s:
English Giant Anteater
Spanish Hormiguero Gigante, Oso Caballo, Oso Hormiguero, Oso Palmero
French Tamanoir, Grand Fourmilier
Taxonomic Notes: Three subspecies are recognized by Gardner (2007).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2c ver 3.1
Year Published: 2010
Date Assessed: 2010-05-22
Assessor/s: Miranda, F. & Medri, I.
Reviewer/s: Abba, A.M. & Superina, M.
Contributor/s: Kasper, C.
M. tridactyla is widespread geographically, but there have been many records of population extirpation, especially in Central America (where it is considered the most threatened mammal) and the southern parts of its range. The dietary specificity, low reproductive rates, large body size, along with threats to habitat degradation in many parts of its range, have proved to be significant factors in its decline. The giant anteater is currently listed in a threat category in virtually all regional and national Red Lists. A population loss of at least 30% over the past 10 years has been estimated based on local extinctions, habitat loss, and deaths caused by fires and roadkills. Because of the real threats to this species and the noticeable declines, a precautionary assessment of Vulnerable is given. More data and population monitoring is required for this species, and a reassessment is recommended as soon as additional information is available.
2006 Near Threatened (IUCN 2006)
2006 Near Threatened
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
1982 Vulnerable (Thornback and Jenkins 1982)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: M. tridactyla has been recorded from Honduras in Central America, south through South America to the Gran Chaco region of Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina. Within Central America, the species has disappeared from much of its range, with recent sightings generally confined to highland regions. The giant anteater is considered the most threatened mammal of Central America; it seems to be extinct in Belize and Guatemala, and probably also in Costa Rica. In South America, this species is extinct in Uruguay (Fallabrino and Castiñeira 2006) and in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil (Cherem et al. 2004); it is classified as Critically Endangered in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil (Fontana et al. 2003) but will be categorized as Extinct in the next update of this state's Red List (C. Kasper pers. comm. 2009). Its presence in Ecuador west of the Andes needs to be confirmed.
Argentina; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Honduras; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Possibly extinct:
Belize; Costa Rica; Guatemala
Regionally extinct:
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: M. tridactyla is locally uncommon to rare.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: This terrestrial anteater is found in tropical moist forest, dry forest, savanna habitats and open grasslands; it has also been reported from the Gran Chaco (Meritt 2008, Noss et al. 2008). Animals are generally solitary. Once per year, the female gives birth to a single young. Gestation length is about 190 days. The mother carries the offspring on its back for approximately six months. As it is not possible to determine their age once they reach adult size and long-term population studies on giant anteaters are lacking, there are no data on the longevity, survival rates, or reproductive rates of wild giant anteaters. The generation length is therefore unknown.
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): M. tridactyla is at risk from habitat loss in parts of its range, and this is a significant threat to Central American populations in particular. Where this species inhabits grassland habitats it is particularly susceptible to fires. Animals are sometimes killed on roads or by dogs. Giant anteaters are hunted for food throughout their distribution, and are additionally hunted as a pest, for pets or for illegal trade in some parts of their range.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: M. tridactyla is listed on Appendix II of CITES. It has been recorded from many protected areas. It is listed on several national red data lists, and is protected as a national heritage species in some provinces in Argentina. There is a need to improve fire management practices, especially in sugarcane plantations and within the regions of grassland habitat occupied by this species.
Citation: Miranda, F. & Medri, I. 2010. Myrmecophaga tridactyla. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 24 April 2014.
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