CHESTER Zoo have welcomed a rare giant anteater pup, only the third of its kind to be born at the zoo in its 92-year history.

The youngster, who is as yet unnamed, will cling to mum Bliss' fur, where it will stay camouflaged until it is around 10 months old.

Hidden cameras in the anteater’s den captured the birth showing the baby born safely onto the ground before climbing onto mum only a few moments later.

Currently measuring in at around 60cm, giant anteaters can grow up to 2.1m (7ft) in length.

Born to Bliss (13) and Oso (nine) on March 12, the pup is the result of an international conservation breeding programme working to protect endangered and at-risk species.

Giant anteaters are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on the IUCN Red List, with numbers continuing to decline in the wild.

Northwich Guardian: The endangered animal is only the third of its kind to be born at the zoo in its history.The endangered animal is only the third of its kind to be born at the zoo in its history. (Image: Chester Zoo)

David White, team manager in charge of caring for giant anteaters at the zoo, said: "Mum Bliss is so far doing an excellent job of looking after her new arrival and seeing the baby clinging on tightly to her back is a really special sight.

"Giant anteaters are truly fascinating animals. Despite their large size when fully grown, they feed mostly on tiny insects and can devour up to 30,000 ants or termites in a day. This diet of little invertebrates means they don’t have any teeth. Instead they use their sticky tongues to feed – these can reach two metres in length and can extend and withdraw at up to 150 times per minute.

"For the time being though, the baby is feeding from mum’s milk – crawling to her underbelly to suckle before climbing back around to rest on her back. The pup will take up this position for around 10 months as its matching fur helps keep it camouflaged, while also making mum look bigger and therefore more off-putting to would-be predators.

"With giant anteaters being vulnerable to extinction the birth is incredibly positive news for the species. It’s a boost to the safety net population being cared for in conservation zoos like ours, while we’re continuing to learn more about them and, at the same time, create more awareness of the majesty of the species."

Giant anteaters are threatened in their native Central and South America, where much of the grassland they depend on to survive has been destroyed, degraded or damaged by fire. In some areas of Brazil, where they once roamed freely, there are now none remaining.

Research supported by conservationists at the zoo now also points to road deaths as another major factor in the demise of populations.

Paul Bamford, the zoo’s field conservation manager for South and Central America, said: "Very few long-term studies of giant anteaters have ever been carried out by the global conservation community, meaning it’s challenging to implement effective conservation actions for these unique-looking animals. It’s not easy to protect a species without an in-depth understanding of what’s happening to them.

"However, we’re working with our partners in Brazil, the Wild Animal Conservation Institute (ICAS), to carry out vital research to redress this - by assessing the impact of road deaths on giant anteaters over thousands of miles of roads. Such high numbers of collisions with motorists have been recorded that it’s now believed to be one of the main threats to the species after habitat loss.

"GPS collars fitted to giant anteaters are giving us an insight on when and how they cross roads so that hotspots can be identified and strategies can be put in place to help reduce the high numbers of anteaters falling victim to collisions. Camera trap imagery is also helping to provide us with accurate data on population sizes living close to roads.

"Working together with motorists to understand perceptions and attitudes towards the species is also critical for developing effective protection measures, such as tailored road signs, to minimize collisions and the associated risks to both people and anteaters.

"This field work, coupled with our care and conservation breeding of giant anteaters at the zoo, is critical to understanding more about this wonderful animal and protecting future generations."