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Denver Zoo staffers bottle-feed baby anteater whose mom doesn't have a clue

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Back in January, we shared photos and video of a Denver Zoo anteater named Rio getting an ultrasound. (It involved a jar of bugs, natch.)

Two months later, on March 7, Rio gave birth to a baby that zookeepers named Cayenne. (They believe Cayenne is a girl.) But as is common with first-time moms of her species, Rio didn't have a clue what to do with her offspring. Zookeepers had to step in and feed Cayenne with a bottle -- which made for the effing adorable photos and video on view below.

Check out that tongue!

Here's more info, courtesy of the zoo. BTW, mom Rio, baby Cayenne and dad Quito are of the South American tamandua species, sometimes called the "lesser anteater."

Zookeepers realized within 24 hours of Cayenne's birth that she was not getting enough milk, as Rio, an inexperienced mother, became inattentive to the baby and was not allowing her to nurse. Zookeepers and veterinarians began bottle feedings around the clock and monitored Cayenne's weight and temperature while she was housed in an incubator. Staff used established protocols obtained from experts at other zoos that have also had to hand rear baby tamanduas while they continued trying to get Rio to care for the infant. "We knew from our conversations with experts at other zoos that it can take a new tamandua mother a while to develop maternal instincts, and first births of this species typically have low success rates," says Denver Zoo Education Animal Programs Manager Kristin Smith. "We were determined, though, to make sure this baby would survive while Rio figured out how to be a good mom."

This is the first birth, not only for Rio, but also her mate, Quito. Rio was born in November 2004 at Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas and came to Denver Zoo in April 2005. Quito was born in August 2012 at Reid Park Zoo in Tucson, Arizona and arrived at Denver Zoo in April 2013. The two were paired under recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) which ensures healthy populations and genetic diversity among zoo animals. Fortunately, the couple has proven to be an excellent match. Cayenne was named after the capital of French Guiana, in keeping with the tradition of her parents being named after notable South American cities.

Watch a video of Cayenne below.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Red kangaroos have three vaginas, and other weird facts about animals' love lives."

Follow me on Twitter @MelanieAsmar or e-mail me at melanie.asmar@westword.com

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