Giant anteaters in Brazil killed two hunters in separate incidents, according to a research paper released online that will be published in Wilderness and Environmental Medicine this December.
Giant anteaters, which have been described as long-nosed, hairy mammals, are not known for aggressive behavior toward people, and are considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for the Conversation of Nature (IUCN), due largely to deforestation and the encroaching of human settlements on their territory. If they have poor vision and are frightened, however, they may defend themselves with front claws as long as pocketknives.
“Both were farmers, were hunting and were attacked by wounded or cornered animals,” lead author Vidal Haddad of the Botucatu School of Medicine at Sao Paulo State University told AFP.
The first case, which occurred in 2012, details a 47-year-old man who was hunting with his two sons and dog when he came across the giant anteater in northern Brazil. The hunter did not shoot at the animal but approached it with his knife drawn. The anteater stood on its hind legs and grabbed the hunter, causing deep puncture wounds in the man’s upper arms and thighs. He bled to death at the scene.
The second case involved a 75-year-old man, who was killed by the anteater when the animal used its front claws to puncture femoral arteries in his groin and thigh.
“These injuries are very serious and we have no way of knowing whether it is a defense behavior acquired by the animals,” said Haddad.
He added that such attacks are rare but they are important to show that people need to give wild animals plenty of space.
The diet of anteaters consists of ants and termites—their long claws are used to dig into anthills—and when a territorial dispute occurs between anteaters, they vocalize, swat, and even ride on the backs of their opponents.
Overall, their numbers have declined 30 percent in the past decade due to habitat loss, road kills, hunting, wildfires, and burning of sugarcane plantations, according to the IUCN.
Image via Wikimedia Commons