Coatis are Cool Critters!

From Sharon . . .


We have three species of animals at The Belize Zoo who are all members of the raccoon family. The kinkajou, the raccoon, and the very cool coatimundi, or “coati” are all in the family known as Procyonidae. Their behaviours and attitudes towards life are very different (similar to any family), and the coati is fun to observe.

They are definitely a “gang”, living in fun-loving groups, spending time climbing, rooting in the ground for coati-treats, and at times, anointing themselves with smell-nice things such as sweet-aroma flowers. However, on some days, zoo personnel will share a bit of scent with them, perfume or diluted pine oil makes any coati a very pleased and happy critter. They will vigorously rub scent into their fur, concentrating on their long tails, and even anoint each other, in obvious glee. It is theorized that coatis will communicate with scent, and perhaps this activity adds to their “quash-communication” profiles.

Those long tails are not prehensile. The coati, unlike its nocturnal cousin, the kinkajou, cannot curl its tail around a branch to hang on high up in the tree-tops. They use their tails for balance. At the zoo, there are climbing areas for the coatis, and oftentimes, when they cannot be located on the ground, just look up! Quash are as comfortable high up in a tree, as they are on the ground.

What does a quash like to eat? Just about anything! They very much fit the bill as omnivores, devouring fruits, insects, lizards, and are known ro nest rob eggs, too. The fourteen coatis at the zoo dine on a variety of fruits and dog chow, and this seems to keep them happy and healthy. A contented animal in captivity will usually breed, and this has been the case with our coatis. As with many tropical forest animals, springtime brings youngsters into the world. We carefully manage our captive coati population, as it would not be a good strategy to be over-populated with coatimundis.

In the wild, coati troops can number as high as thirty-five individuals. This is a female-driven society. Young males are allowed to stay in the troop, adult males are booted out. When people report a “single quash” that animal is always a male coati. In Belize we consider the coatimundi to be plentiful, existing in robust populations throughout our nation and in various habitats.

There is value in maintaining healthy populations of coatis in captivity. For future times, it is predicted that efforts will be put forward to restore de-forested areas into forested lands once again. Coatis are important seed dispersers in a tropical forest, they assist in keeping ecological balance.

Most tropical wildlife is active in the evening hours. Many people wandering about in our parks and reserves during the day, fail to see wildlife. But, the coati is one of our species which is diurnal, and often seen by people who visit the “wild” wildlife sanctuaries in Belize. However! If missed in the wild, The Belize Zoo has a happy troop of quash who are always eager to meet and greet visitors.

Remember: The Belize Zoo has recently "remodeled" its web site! Check out the great new format, and be sure to visit often. You will find some excellent new features, such as links to Wild Belize with Sharon Matola, podcasts from the director of the "best little zoo in the world," along with regularly updated Newsletter segments and Messages from the Director. Get all your most up to date TBZ content from the new and improved web site, http://www.belizezoo.org. This blog will occasionally post, so feel free to stop back once in a while. Meanwhile, see you at the ZOO!

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