National Zoo Adds a Twist to Anteater Naming

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The Smithsonian's National Zoological Park needs your help in naming its newest anteater.

Polls are currently open on the Zoo's web site and you can vote for your favorite name until noon on March 28. Once the polls close, the top three vote-getters will move to round two, where things get interesting. Maripi, the anteater cub's mom, will then choose the winning name of her pup. How does a giant anteater pick a name for her cub exactly? Well, the three top names will be coupled with different enrichment objects (meaning things that an anteater finds interesting) and placed in the anteater yard. Maripi will be let loose in the yard and whichever object/name she goes to first will become her pup's new name.

There are a total of five names selected by staff members and each have a specific meaning they felt would fit this particular anteater or the species in general. The giant anteater species can be found in the wild from Central and South American. This particular anteater cub has the reputation of being confident and tough. "During one of his first forays into the yard he was spotted off Maripi's back, checking out all the new and exciting scents," said Marie Magnuson, an animal keeper at the National Zoo.

Listed below are the possible names for the anteater cub and why that name was selected. After you're done "aww-ing" at the photo, head over to the Zoo's site and vote!

Pablo: One of the most popular boys' names in South America, this would suit the playful pup perfectly. Famous Pablos include artist Pablo Picasso and movie director Pablo Ferro.

Termito: Meaning "termite." An anteater's diet is heavily based on ants and termites. Anteaters use their keen sense of smell to detect termite mounds and anthills and tear them open with their strong claws. They gather their prey using a two-foot-long tongue covered with very sticky saliva.

Demetrio: Meaning "of the earth." Anteaters live in grassland savannas, swamps, humid forests and wetlands. Almost everything they eat is "of the earth." In addition to ants and termites, giant anteaters also eat ripe fruit that has fallen from the trees and the eggs of ground-nesting birds.

Fausto: Meaning "lucky." This anteater pup had somewhat of a rocky start, and his survival is due to strength and luck. Just hours after he was born, keepers found the baby outside of the nest box with a low body temperature while his mother was asleep in the nest. The newborn was taken to the Zoo's vet hospital, where he received a complete medical evaluation that included a controlled raise of his body temperature. Luckily, he rebounded quickly with the aid of keepers and veterinarians and was soon reunited with his mother where he continues to thrive.

Valerio: Meaning "to be healthy or strong." This anteater is one tough guy. He and his mother have settled into a nice routine of eating, sleeping and going out in the yard when it is warm. He continues to grow as expected and is right on target for his age in growth and health.

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