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Baby Potto at The Cincinnati Zoo

This strange but captivating friend is a baby Potto. The Cincnnati Zoo's collection ranges far and wide (including the oddly loveable bearcat!) and never disappoints. Pottos inhabit the canopy of rain forests in tropical Africa, from Guinea to Kenya and Uganda into the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are nocturnal and arboreal, sleeping during the day in the leaves and almost never descending from the trees.


Pottos grow to a length of 30 to 40 cm with a short (3 to 10 cm) tail and their maximum weight is 1.5 kg. The close, woolly fur is grey brown. The index finger is vestigial, although they have opposable thumbs with which they grasp branches firmly. At the second toes of the hind legs they have the fine claw typical for strepsirrhines. Three of the vertebrae in the Potto's neck have sharp points and nearly pierce the skin; these are used as defensive weapons. Both males and females have large scent glands under the tail (in females, the swelling created by the glands is known as a pseudo-scrotum), which they use to mark their territories and to reinforce pair bonds. Pottos have a distinct odor that some observers have likened to curry.

Pottos move slowly and carefully, always gripping a branch with at least two limbs. They are also quiet creatures. Their commonest call is a high-pitched 'tsic,' which is used mainly between mother and offspring.

Studies of stomach contents have shown that the Potto diet consists of about 65% fruit, 21% tree gums and 10% insects. Pottos have also occasionally been known to catch bats and small birds. Their strong jaws enable them to eat fruits and lumps of dried gum that are too tough for other tree-dwellers. The insects they eat tend to have a strong smell, possibly because more palatable insects are snatched up by faster-moving creatures.

Pottos inhabit firm territories which they mark with urine and glandular secretions, and same-sex intruders are vehemently guarded against, although each male's territory generally overlaps with that of two or more females. Females have been known to donate part of their territories to their daughters, but sons leave their mother's territory upon maturity.

As part of their courting rituals, Pottos often meet for bouts of mutual grooming. This is frequently performed while they hang upside down from a branch. Grooming consists of licking, combing fur with the grooming claw and teeth, and anointing with the scent glands. Pottos mate face-to-face while hanging upside down from a branch.

After a gestation of about 170 days the female gives birth. Births are typically of a single young, but twins are known to occur. The young first are clasped to the belly of the mother, but later she carries them on her back. She can also hide her young in the leaves while searching for food. After about four to five months they are weaned and are fully mature after about 18 months.