Coatis are popular in Children’s Planet

A coati at Flamingo Land zoo
A coati at Flamingo Land zoo

In our Children’s Planet area at Flamingo Land, we have a range of mammal and reptile species. One of which, the South American coati, is found is Venezuela, Columbia, Uruguay and Argentina. It is closely related to the racoons, therefore resembles them by having a stripey tail and long snout. Its fur is a slightly reddish colour with lighter patches around its face. When foraging it often holds its tail in the air allowing other coatis in the group to be able to distinguish each other. Despite looking fairly cute and fluffy, it is able to eat animals such as scorpions, spiders and tarantulas, in addition to a variety of food and seeds. This animal is an important seed disperser, enabling plants and trees to spread their seeds throughout a forest via the coati’s faeces. The coatis would get the majority of their food from the trees but their preferred choice of locomotion would be on the ground.

Male coatis can often be found living on their own, whereas females and young males could reach group size of up to 30 individuals. They remain in close contact with each other by displaying a range of vocalisations. This large group size can be beneficial when any young are born, as they are completely defenceless. The females in the group can protect each other’s offspring to make sure they are not targeted by predators.

Whilst living in the forests, the coatis have to be alert from several predators such as jaguar, ocelots and puma. Humans are also a threat to them as they are hunted for their meat, however it is a protected species in Uruguay. Deforestation and dam building are causing their population numbers to decrease too, but the coati is fairly widespread and is listed as least concern on the IUCN redlist, therefore its numbers are too high for it to be classed as endangered.

The image shows one of our coatis receiving fruit for their lunch. We give them three scatter feeds per day to try and increase the length of time the coatis spend foraging for their food. By spreading the food out, it encourages them to use their senses to locate as much food as possible. It also means the four coatis in our group are more likely to get a fairer share of the food.