Monday, zoo guests will meet Asterix, a nearly 2-year-old giant anteater originally from Chicago, and his future mate, a still-unnamed 18-month-old who came here from Idaho.
* Giant anteaters have the longest tongues of any mammal in relation to body size, and can flick them in and out of an anthill or termite mound 150 times a minute, consuming an estimated 30,000 insects a day in the wild.
* The zoo’s anteaters will have a more diverse diet — wax worms, superworms, insect purees, eggs, applesauce and Asterix’s favorite food, avocado.
* Mature giant anteaters can weigh 90 pounds and measure up to 7 feet in length. At 88 pounds, Asterix is nearly there.
* The zoo’s new anteater habitat includes concrete termite mounds with food-filled tubes, allowing Asterix and his partner to feed as they would in the wild. It also features a wading pool for the animals, which use their noses as snorkels.
* Giant anteaters are considered a vulnerable species, meaning their population is decreasing. The Lincoln Children’s Zoo is participating in a Species Survival Plan, and its two new animals are a recommended breeding pair — so expect baby anteaters in the future, maybe as early as next year.
Just west of the anteaters, the zoo installed Ellie, a one-of-a-kind, 26-foot-tall steel abstract elephant playground.
* Kids can climb a series of cargo nets to the top of Ellie’s hat for a panoramic view of the zoo and the city surrounding it. And a look through Ellie’s eyes provides fish-eyed vantage points.
* Then they can zip down to the ground on a stainless steel tornado slide, with a water spray surprising them at the end. Children with cochlear implants can use the slide without suffering the effects of electrostatic discharge interference.
* Also at the bottom? A soft-rubber surface with a stepping stone design and seating for parents.
A show of speed
The world’s fastest mammals need room to run, so the zoo carved out a 10,000-square-foot grass-covered field for its five new cheetahs.
* Three of the animals — Sita, Saba and Nane (six, seven and eight in Swahili) — are 2-year-old sisters from the Bingwa Bunch of St. Louis, the only documented litter of eight cheetahs reared at a zoo, who arrived in October.
* Bella and Moyo are 10-year-olds who moved to Lincoln from Columbus, Ohio, earlier this year.
* The 90-pound cheetahs can reach speeds of 60 mph and will demonstrate their ability and agility by chasing a lure around their 200-foot run, while guests watch from shaded, stadium-style seating.
* But the zoo is reopening its outdoor playgrounds Monday. They include Stego's Dig, Natural Playground and Zooville Square Playground. The Secret Jungle and Splash Stream will remain closed.
* Construction crews are still working on the outdoor event and concert space along A Street, which will eventually accommodate 1,000 people, including 400 beneath the roof of a 96-foot-by-64-foot tent.