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Celebrating the Life of Izzy the Southern Tamandua

Categories: Animal Profile, Animals, Visitor Services
Southern Tamandua
Izzy the Southern Tamandua

On Tuesday afternoon the Sacramento Zoo lost a golden resident, Izzy, a southern tamandua. A female who knew what she wanted and only did things on her terms, Izzy did not let her old age or a variety of ailments slow her down. Tuesday morning Izzy was her normal feisty but sweet self who slurped up her breakfast after greeting a favorite zookeeper. She then went about her day like usual and exhibited normal behaviors at 3 p.m. when she was given her evening meal. About an hour later, around 4 p.m., she was discovered unresponsive in her exhibit. Zookeepers and veterinarians rushed Izzy to the onsite veterinary hospital but were unable to resuscitate her. Following her passing, Izzy was taken to UC Davis where an animal necropsy will be performed.

World-class veterinary care from skilled UC Davis veterinary staff and technicians as well as daily monitoring by passionate zookeepers aided Izzy’s ability to live to the golden age of 15, well past the median life expectancy of 9.1 years. Izzy was tied for the oldest living female southern tamandua in Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited zoos.

In recent years Izzy was diagnosed with a variety of illnesses related to her old age for which she had been receiving ongoing care and evaluations from the veterinary and animal care teams at the Sacramento Zoo. On October 26, she was taken to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for specialized consultations and testing to gain a more in-depth picture of her overall health. Conditions that Izzy had included abnormal mineralization of her tissues, ocular (eye) disease, a heart murmur, and a uterine mass.

Izzy receiving a treat after having lotion rubbed on her feet

Izzy moved to the Sacramento Zoo from the Topeka Zoo in 2011. Izzy was a favorite among guests as she is a species that is not often found in zoos and that many have not heard of. This last spring she was profiled on the Big Day of Giving for the spa care she received from caretakers for her dry skin on her feet. She also loved a dash of vinegar in her daily diet as well as an abundance of avocados.

Native to the rainforests and scrub forests of South America, the southern tamandua, also known as lesser anteaters, are an arboreal anteater species. They have a prehensile tail that they use as an extra hand or foot, the underside and end of the tail are hairless which helps the tamandua to grip while foraging for food. Like the giant anteater, a tamandua eats approximately 9,000 ants each day in the wild. A smelly scent gives tamaduas the nickname “stinkers of the forest,” a form of protection against predators. There are 72 southern tamanduas in 32 Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited institutions in North America.