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    Ants Show Strong-Arm Tactics at Edinburgh Zoo

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    The arrival of two giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo is grabbing all the media attention but some of the zoos smallest inhabitants are also making their first public appearance. Lets take a look at their leafcutter ants.

    Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo are being treated to unusual displays of strength from a colony of 250,000 leafcutter ants.

    The atta cephalotes ant is strong enough to bite through leather and carry 20 times its own body weight.

    They can be seen carrying their swag across a dangling rope connecting their food supply and nest tank.

    Senior animal presenter Gareth Bennett has looked after the colony since it arrived from the Caribbean 18 months ago.

    [Gareth Bennett, Senior Animal Presenter]:
    “It arrived in a very, very small yogurt pot with maybe one queen and a couple of hundred workers and foragers.”

    The ants do not eat their fodder but use it to cultivate a fungus as their only source of food.

    [Gareth Bennett, Senior Animal Presenter]:
    “Only ten percent of captive colonies will get to the stage that we have on display here. The real trick is that at the early stages you must look after the fungus production, that’s key to the whole thing. If you look after the fungus the ants tend to look after themselves.”

    The ants are avid recyclers and the only other species, apart from humans, which actively farm their food.

    [Gareth Bennett, Senior Animal Presenter]:
    “They also show crop rotation. They won’t take food from the same source continuously.”

    Even though they prune vegetation and stimulate new plant growth, they are considered a farm pest due to their ability to strip foliage.

    [Gareth Bennett, Senior Animal Presenter]:
    “We are far too quick to label a species as a pest species before we actually realise what would happen if that animal were to be taken out of the wild, what would happen..