Conservationists in Argentina say they are winning the battle to preserve one of the country’s most distinctive animals.
The giant anteater once thrived in the country’s northern wetlands but habitat loss and poaching sent the population into a steep decline.
Now, an ambitious plan is underway to reintroduce the animals to a wetlands nature reserve where they had become extinct.
The anteaters come from private homes and zoos elsewhere in Argentina, where they often live in unsuitable conditions.
The first stop is the quarantine centre at the government biological institute near the provincial capital Corrientes.
There they undergo extensive health checks to make sure they will not contaminate the rest of the newly introduced stock once they return to the wild.
They are also slowly re-acquainted with the natural habitats where they will have to learn to survive.
After several months in quarantine, the anteaters are first released into a plot of just under three hectares before being transferred to their final destination in the wild.
Biologist Yamil di Blanco explained: “The objective over 20 years is to continue increasing the animal population and then evaluate if the project is sustainable in the long term.
“The long term objective is simply concerned with taking care of the habitat, controlling and monitoring the place, working against poachers and the extreme threats that are affecting this species. That plan alone should make the population sustainable in the long term and we will no longer have to continue to augment it with new animals.”
Conservationists intend to reintroduce several new animals each year for at least a decade, to build a genetically mixed and disease-free population.