The marsupial anteater, or “nambyat,” is one of Australia’s most beautiful and rare animals. This endemic of Australia once inhabited almost all of South Australia, but today only two wild populations of Nambat remain. One inhabits the outskirts of Perth and the other in the Dryandran Forest. They are listed in the Red Book and need to be saved.
The body length of the marsupial anteater is about 27 centimeters and the tail is 13-17 centimeters. The anteater’s tail is long and fluffy. The nambat’s fur is stiff and bright. Its unusual coloring allows this animal to be called one of the most beautiful marsupials in Australia. Its fur color varies from brown to brick red. On the back of the body there are 6-12 white stripes alternating with black fur. On the muzzle, from the base of the ear through the eye to the tip of the nose, there is a black stripe. The tail hair is thick, and in case of danger and when moving along a tree trunk, it fluffs up and resembles a squirrel’s tail.
In spite of its small teeth, the marsupial anteater is able to devour up to 20 thousand termites with its worm-like tongue, which is capable of sticking out up to 10 centimeters long. The tongue has a sticky surface, which helps the anteater easily collect its prey. Contrary to their name, anteaters feed mostly on termites, with ants making up a small part of their diet. They are very choosy animals, so other insects are eaten only rarely. They find their prey by means of a highly developed sense of smell. Most often they destroy old wood or tear up termite passages and devour their prey with rapid movements of their long tongue.
The marsupial anteater is a territorial animal. Each male has about 1.5 km2 of territory, and they mark the borders of their plots with oily secretion. Depending on the season and weather conditions, they are active at different times of the day.
Female gives birth to 2 to 4 cubs. The gestation period lasts 4 months. The cubs are born no more than 5 centimeters in length. Interestingly, the anteater has no pouch, so the cubs cling to the mother’s fur and feed on mother’s milk.
Peculiarities of behavior
The anteater is characterized by its slowness, but, sensing danger, it is able to run and jump quickly. The anteater spends the night in its secluded lair, sinking into a deep sleep. There have been many tragic cases, when people carelessly burned an anteater along with dead wood, which didn’t have time to wake up and hide from danger in time.
The reason for the dramatic decrease in the number of marsupial anteaters (or nambyats), as in the case of many rare species of the Australian continent, is the introduction of animals, especially predators, which were unprepared for their appearance in the area. As part of the program to save the Nambat, reintroductions have been made to several reserves in Australia. However, wild populations continue to decline, especially in the Dryandran Forest.
The marsupial anteater is a rare and beautiful resident of Australia in need of rescue. Although it is not a large animal, it plays an important role in Australia’s ecosystem. Its unique language and ability to devour termites make it an indispensable link in the food chain. But in order to conserve this species, measures must be taken to protect and preserve its habitat.