Firstly, I have an apology to make – some of you may have noticed that I have been a little lax with this blog lately! My only excuse (and I am sure it will not endear me to any readers prone to jealousy) is that I have been out of the country on a number of wildlife-related trips, and have spent the intervening time in the UK reading and writing about alpacas for a certificate. I hope that all the photos and stories I have brought back will make up for it!
The latest trip was a birding expedition to Costa Rica (there will be more on Costa Rica as a whole, and lots and lots (and lots!) of birds in forthcoming blogs). Although it was primarily a birding trip, birds were not by any means the only thing we saw, and one of the most exciting things we saw was actually a mammal – a tamandua. And we knew it was really exciting because our guide (who leads similar tours every week for months on end) was excited too.
A tamandua is a type of anteater, quite a small one, which can be found throughout Central and South America. The species found in Costa Rica is Tamandua mexicana, or the Northern Tamandua. Like other tamandua species they eat ants (no surprises there), termites and occasionally bees, and spend a lot of time foraging in trees. They are best adapted to climbing trees and moving about in the branches, so when on the ground they walk on the side of their curled up forefeet to avoid stabbing their palms with their large claws. They have strong forearms, which they use to break open termite and ant nests, and then use long (up to 40cm) sticky tongues to extract the insects. Adult tamanduas are estimated to eat around 9,000 ants or termites every 24 hours!
These lovely animals are uncommon, and so we were very lucky to get such good views. Of all the things we expected or even hoped to see on our boat trip, a tamandua in a tree eating ants from a bromeliad was not one of them. As I was on a boat at the time of filming, and surrounded by other boats filled with German tourists (At least I think they were German. I am prepared to be corrected if anyone knows better!), there is a certain amount of wobbliness in the video and quite a lot of off-camera exclamations – I hope you still enjoy it!
Stay tuned for the next posts in the Costa Rica mini-series – Leaf cutter ants (and maybe a bird or two!)