Escondido, California - Five, three-month-old South American coatis jumped on rocks, climbed trees, and dug in the dirt in their new habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The young coati siblings, two males and three females, played in their enclosure, showing off their agility that included balancing on limbs, and even somersaulting on a branch high above the ground. The coati are described by keepers as very curious, very smart and always very active.
South American coatis, also known as ring-tailed coatis, are closely related to raccoons and are found in the jungles and rain forests of South America, where they live both on the ground and in trees. They have a slender head with a long nose, small ears, dark feet and a distinctive ringed tail, used for balancing while climbing. Their specially adapted ankle joints allow them to rotate their feet, climbing up trees and descending head first.
Coatis are omnivores, and while these youngsters are still receiving milk while being weaned, their diet primarily consists of meat, fruit and vegetables. Coatis use their sharp-clawed paws and long, thin, shovel-like noses with keen sense of smell, to dig for food. Coatis in the wild may be heard chirping, snorting and grunting as they root through the jungle, foraging for termites, lizards, spiders and other treats. The coatis at the Safari Park currently weigh 4 to 5 pounds each, but when full grown in six to eight months, can weigh between 10 and 15 pounds.
There are four different species of coatis, ring-tailed and mountain, found in South America; the Cozumel Island coati found in Mexico and the white-nosed coati found in Mexico and the desert areas of the Southwest United States. Due to their size, coatis have numerous predators in the wild, including large cats like jaguars and puma, along with boa constrictors and even large birds of prey.
Visitors to the Safari Park can see the playful coatis in their habitat, located at Thorntree Terrace.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.