The Southern tamandua is a unique anteater, which is equally arboreal and terrestrial. This animal is nicknamed 'lesser anteater' due to being smaller that the related giant anteater. The odd appearance of this anteater is highly beneficial for the animal, especially for populations in Central and South American forests and scrublands. Thus, when feeding at an anthill, the curly hair protects the tamandua from angry ants, trying to reach its skin. The forefeet of Southern tamandua have 4 toes, where the third toe has an extremely long claw, due to which tamandua has to walk on the outside edges of its forelegs in order not to stab its feet with its own claws.
This anteater is endemic to South America, occurring from Venezuela and Trinidad to northern Argentina, southern Brazil, and Uruguay. The preferred habitats of the Southern tamandua are both wet and dry forests such as tropical rainforest, savanna, and thorn scrub. This animal is most often found in areas near streams and rivers, dominated by vines and epiphytes.
Despite of being normally nocturnal, Southern tamanduas are known to occasionally be active by day. They are believed to nest during the daytime hours. Their nesting sites are usually hollow trunks of trees or burrows, left by other animals. The Southern tamandua is a solitary animal, foraging in trees. According to a study, conducted in Venezuela, the Southern tamanduas, living in different habitat, spend 13 - 64% of their time in trees. Moreover, the greater part of their active time is spent foraging. When on the ground, this animal is extremely clumsy, slow, and unable to gallop, unlike the related giant anteater. The main mean of self-defense is the strong front legs. In addition, they can hiss or give off an unpleasant odor in order to turn away the opponent. When threatened in trees, the Southern tamanduas typically grasp a tree branch with their hind legs and tails so that the forelegs are free. They fight, using their long, curved claws. When threatened on the ground, they lean on a rock or a tree and use the same technique of self-defense, fighting back with their front legs.
The Southern tamandua is an insectivore, the diet of this species mainly consists of ant and termites, supplemented with honey and bees. Individuals in captivity may consume fruit and meat. Meanwhile, these animals generally avoid feeding on army ants and leaf-eating ants, which are equipped with strong chemical defenses.
Currently, there is insufficient information on reproductive and courtship habits of this species due to lack of studies. However, newborn babies are cared for only by their mother, suggesting that Southern tamanduas are either polygynous or polygynandrous (promiscuous). They mate during the autumn. Females usually breed more than once during each season. Gestation period lasts for 130 - 150 days, yielding a single baby, rarely - twins. During the first months after birth, the young anteater can often be observed carried on the back of its mother. During this period, the female may leave the young on a safe tree branch as she forages. The baby lives with its mother until 1 year old, after which it becomes sexually mature and is ready to leave. Females of this species are capable of producing offspring at 2 - 3 years old.
Currently, there are no notable threats to the population of this species. However, Southern tamanduas suffer from pet trade. In addition, they are predated by domestic dogs. On the other hand, wildfires, road traffic as well as degradation and loss of their natural habitat can pose a threat to specific populations.
According to IUCN, the Southern tamandua is relatively common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.