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The prairies and scrublands of the Brazilian Cerrado is home to the Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). The Cerrado is quickly changing as much of it is being rapidly coverted to pasture and agricultural lands and new roadways are fragmenting and dividing the biome. Road mortality is now having a significant impact on local wildlife, including the vulnerable Giant Anteater. Zoo Miami annually supports a team of researchers, led by Dr. Arnaud Desbiez, that began the Anteaters and Highways project as an effort to collect data on the impacts and interactions in this changing landscape in order to better advise planners, policy makers, and land managers on how to better protect this species in the wild. The Anteaters and Highways team are helping anteaters in the wild through working with authorities to implement road mitigation meaures, engaging and educating drivers, long term study of Giant Anteater reproduction and juvenile survival, and general giant anteater health.
The Giant Anteaters and Highway team has developed mitigation measures to guide new and existing road construction. These measures have been adopted as public policy for parts of the Cerrado that are most effected. The team works with local and regional authorities to implement measures such as speed reducers, fencing in high traffic areas, and raising awareness with the communities about the behaviors that create more risk for the anteaters. The team has interviewed drivers about their perceptions of wildlife mortality on roads and what kind of warning signs are most influencial in their behavior. The team also engages with the local communities through school programs, producing videos for distribution, holding community workshops, and produced content on social media to target specific audiences.
The team has also taken data from the first years of the project and used modeling to identify the most dangerous areas for collisions with large mammals. This helps target the areas most at risk for the wildlife and for the drivers. The interviews with drivers also has shown that the vast majprity of road collisions occur at night.
The Anteaters and Highways team has maintained harnesses on Giant Anteaters to allow for following their movements. This allows for a better understanding of reproductive rates, interbirth rates, parental care, and road crossing behavior. Juvenile Giant Anteaters have also been given harnesses to learn more about how they disperse from their mothers into the surrounding landscape.
In the unfortunate event that a Giant Anteater is killed from a roadway collision, there is still a large amount of information that can be obtained. Conducting exams and performing necropsies allows the team to gather physiologic and disease data on the population without having to take further invasive measures.
To find out more about the Anteaters and Highways program, click on the button below: