Curious Coatis Show Off Agility at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

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coatisFive 3-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 agility that included balancing on limbs and even somersaulting on a branch high above the ground. The coatis 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 nose 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 food items. The coatis at the Safari Park currently weigh 4 to 5 pounds each, but when full grown in 6 to 8 months can weigh between 10 and 15 pounds.

There are four different coati species: ring-tailed and mountain coatis, 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 mountain lions, 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.

Photo taken on Aug. 5, 2014, by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo Safari Park.