The Phoenix Zoo euthanized the nation’s oldest anteater in captivity, Ebenezer, on July 12 for old-age health issues. Ebenezer is outlived by Beaker, the zoo’s other anteater.
Sean Logan/The Republic

The oldest anteater in U.S. captivity was humanely euthanized at the Phoenix Zoo after his long, sociable, prolific life, officials said. 

According to a Facebook post from the zoo’s official page, 28-year-old Ebenezer was euthanized after his health declined recently. 

Linda Hardwick, director of communications at Phoenix Zoo, said Ebenezer was put down on July 12.   

Angela Comedy, the zoo’s carnivore manager, said Phoenix Zoo acquired Ebenezer when he was just a little over a year old from San Antonio. He lived the rest of his life in Phoenix Zoo where he was well-loved and cared for by multiple keepers throughout his long life.

“He was like a gentle soul, which everybody loved … every keeper that worked with him, he was one of their favorite animals at the zoo,” she said. 

Comedy said that she loves working with anteaters because of the way they look and their intense curiosity. She said Ebenezer was a highly social creature who loved to approach people and sniff their hands. 

“He was super curious. His whole loving personality and characteristics just made him so special. And the way that he really interacted with his keepers and even the public … he was just a good anteater,” Comedy said.

Ebenezer leaves behind 12 direct offspring and a total of 118 descendants all across the globe and surpassed the normal lifespan for these nocturnal creatures, which is generally between 24-26 years. 

Comedy said that Ebenezer was suffering from age-related ailments when he was euthanized. Once animals start reaching the end of their life cycle, hard decisions are made.  

“The decision to euthanize him didn’t just come from just one person. It’s a huge group decision. It involves the keepers, the management, the upper management, the veterinary staff … We all get together and we all have input on what happens with these animals,” Comedy said.       

In Ebenezer’s case, the combination of old age, his increased sleeping and his slower movements, among other factors, led to the zoo’s decision to euthanize him. 

Comedy said some of her favorite moments interacting with Ebenezer were when she would feed him, but he would lose interest in the food and instead start poking up the sleeve of her shirt. 

“I’m feeding him … and he’s almost done … and then he’ll start, ‘Well, I’m tired with the avocado. I’m gonna start looking what’s under your sleeve.’ And then he’ll put his little nose up under the sleeve, and then the tongue would come out, so it feels like you have bugs or something running up your arm! It’s really cute; it’s like anteater kisses,” she said.  

These animals, distinctive for their long snouts and tails, are typically found in Central and South America and can eat up to 40,000 bugs a day, according to Comedy. While not endangered, these creatures are still threatened, or vulnerable. 

“They’re such a crazy cool kind of an animal,” Comedy said. 

The Phoenix Zoo has a conservation center that does research on endangered species. The conservation department also sends monetary aid and people to other countries to work with endangered animals.   

Another anteater, Beaker, is currently at the Phoenix Zoo. The public can visit him, she said. 

“If you’re curious about what anteaters look like — what they eat, what they do during the day — the zoo is the best place to come for that. That way you can get a close-up, in-person view of a giant anteater,” Comedy said. 


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