A recently-arrived group of Coatis has settled into Melbourne Zoo so well that they have produced three litters, with a total of 22 kittens. The kittens have been secluded in nest boxes for the first weeks of their lives. Now they are starting to eat solid food, and it’s time for a large-scale session with the Zoo’s Veterinarians, who need to protect the kittens against three potential diseases with the F3 vaccination.
There are four adult females and one male in the group, selected by the international breeding program to create a genetically diverse breeding group. Coatis belong to the larger Raccoon family, which includes 17 species, all native to the Americas. This species is native to Arizona, Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Ecuador.
They are very skilled climbers, known for descending trees head first. Their long tails are used as balancing rods to assist when they’re climbing. Coatis are omnivores, eating insects, fruits, other vegetation, and meat. In the wild, a new mother will typically keep her kittens isolated in her nest for 6 to 10 weeks before rejoining the band.
In their native habitat, males visit groups of females in the breeding season, and then leave the females to raise their kittens together.
This behaviour led early researchers to assume that the lone animals belonged to a separate species, which they called Coatimundis, meaning ‘lone coati’ in the local language, Guarani.
In addition to vaccinating the kittens, the Zoo’s Vet team plans to micro-chip the kittens tomorrow, so each one will be easily identifiable in future. That will ensure that accurate records can be kept of their growth and any veterinary treatments each one may need.