Anteater Climbs Cherry Tree to Cheer Students on Entrance Exams

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ifu, a southern tamandua anteater, walks on a branch of a cherry tree at Izu Animal Kingdom in Higashi-Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

SHIZUOKA — An anteater climbs a blossoming cherry tree to encourage students who are taking entrance exams, in an ongoing event at Izu Animal Kingdom park in Higashi-Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

The annual event, launched by the zoo in 2015, is related to the Japanese metaphor “sakura saku” (cherry blossoms bloom), which means passing an entrance exam. In contrast, the verb “ochiru,” literally meaning to fall, also means failing to pass something.

Against that background, it is significant that an anteater is unlikely to fall as it climbs a Kawazu cherry tree that blooms at the zoo during an entrance exam season.

Ifu, a 2-year-old southern tamandua — a species of anteater native to South America — excels at climbing trees. On Feb. 18, the first day of this year’s event, Ifu was initially held in a zookeeper’s arms, but once she grabbed a tree trunk, she skillfully climbed the tree by making her way among branches and licked nectar from flowers with her long tongue.

“It’s amazing how well she can climb to such a high place,” said a 6-year-old child who was visiting the zoo from Yokohama.

The event will be held at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. until the cherry blossoms fall.