Though considered arboreal it will spend time on the ground looking for termite mounds and traveling, unlike it's close cousin the pygmy or silky anteater (Cyclopes didactlus) who is strictly arboreal or the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) who is fully terrestrial. Some even live in the savannas where there are few trees. Unfortunately because it will travel on the ground this leads to the most common sighting of tamanduas in the wild by the side of the road, hit by car. Considered a nuisance animal in their native lands they are also hunted for the tendons in their tails to make rope. They are also killed on site as many consider them a threat because they have been known to kill dogs. They are considered a threatened species.
In the wild they eat mostly termites, ants and some grubs and fruits but avoid any ants that have strong chemicals like the warrior fire ants but will eat the workers and eggs. They have been known to raid bee hives in the wild. They love honey and sweets but may well eat the bee larvae too. They may occasionally eat fallen fruits or flowers since they have a fondness for them in captivity. I often see it mentioned a person wants a tamandua or other anteater because they have ants. Tamanduas are not an effective form of pest control though some natives are said to keep them for that reason. First they will often not eat ants that are not native to where they live in the wild and much prefer to avoid the warrior ants. They also do not destroy any termite mounds they do feed from in the wild. Instead they eat from many nests always leaving enough behind for the nest to recover, making them a primitive sort of ant farmer. Though not tending the crop of ants they only harvest what they need and leave the rest to continue to grow. Also tamanduas held in captivity who were offered termite mounds from their native habitats fared quite poorly.(1) So anyone hoping to get an anteater to control their ants should not be thinking about getting one of these lovely creatures but instead call an exterminator.
When I first began looking for information on keeping Tamanduas in captivity very little information was readily available. I have a great love for these animals however so did not let this apparent road block stop me. I have talked with handlers, private owners, zoo vets and keepers and stud book keepers. I also managed to get my hands on several articles and studies on tamanduas and giant anteaters who have very similar requirements and health issues. I gained a great deal of knowledge about the care of these animals but also sadly realized many who already had these animals were not informed of how to properly care for them. This was not due to the owners not caring or trying to do right by them but simply a lack of readily available information like I myself was confronted with. The worst case I have come across was a business who regularly dealt with exotics. they were experienced and caring but when they acquired their tamandua believed the seller when he told them to feed it rotten eggs.
The result was a very sickly animal that died very prematurely. Other problems are not so sever. Some seek answers but often seemingly small things like chronic loose and excessively smelly stools are all to often excepted as normal or unavoidable by owners. This is not the case however and many of the most common problems can be resolved with a proper diet. Seeing the need for a good easy to find source of information on captive tamandua husbandry I felt obliged to try and help with this care sheet.