Meet the Exotic Animals

Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

Diet: In the wild cotton-top tamarins eat a variety of insects, fruit, saps and plants.
Home: Cotton-top tamarins are an endangered species, found in the rainforests and woodland areas of South America (throughout Amazonia into Guianas, Columbia and Central America).

There are currently more of these primates living in captivity than in the wild as they are threatened by the pet trade and deforestation of their natural habitat.

They are social animals and live in pairs or family groups. Tamarin females always give birth to twin offspring and the male plays a significant role in caring for the young, primarily by carrying them around. Without this help the female would not be able to cope with the extra energy demands of lactation.

In most cases, non-reproductive animals help the parents to carry and rear their offspring. Among monkeys this form of cooperative breeding is found only in the tamarin and marmoset species.

Bolivian Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri boliviensis)

Diet: Bolivian squirrel monkeys are omnivores and eat insects, fruit, flowers and seeds.
Home: Throughout Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela.

Although they are captured for medical research and for the pet trade; they are not threatened in the wild. They are found in the canopy layers of tropical lowland rainforest. They are excellent climbers and leapers and are very active during the day.

They use their long tails for balancing and for marking territory – squirrel monkeys will rub their tails and their skin with their own urine. In the wild their small body size makes them susceptible to predators such as snakes and felids (cats). On average they can live up to 20 years.

Brown or Black-capped Capuchin (Cebus apella)

Diet: Primarily fruit and insect eaters.
Home: Central America.

Capuchin are highly intelligent primates and love to explore their surroundings. They are expert climbers and use their prehensile tails like an extra arm to move around the canopy.

They live in groups and although they are small in size, they are deceptively strong! They communicate with each other by using a variety of vocal and facial expressions.

Capuchin monkeys can live up to 40 years of age.

Meerkat (Suricata suricatta)

Diet: In the wild meerkats eat insects, spiders, eggs and other small animals, roots and bulbs, and occasionally small birds.
Home: Meerkats are widespread in parts around the Kalahari Desert and Southern Africa. They are considered to be of ‘least concern’ by the IUCN Redlist and there are no major threats to this species.

Meerkats spend a lot of time in large underground tunnels and are social animals. At least one member of the group watches for predators. They are vocal animals and communicate to the rest of the group to let them know when all is well and will warn of any potential predators.

Meerkats also spend a lot of time foraging for food. They have long front claws that are used to dig burrows and to find food. Their tails are used to help them balance and the black coloration around their eyes act like natural sunglasses to help them see against the bright sun.

Red-rumped Agouti (Dasyprocta leporina)

Diet: Nuts, fallen fruit and vegetation.
Home: South America.

Agoutis are rodents native to South America. They may grow up to 60cm long (about the size of a large rabbit), weigh between 3-6kg and can live up to 20 years – a very long time for a rodent. Agoutis are terrestrial (ground dwelling) and move quickly by trotting, walking or bounding, they can also jump at least 1.5m high and swim well too.

When food is abundant Agoutis may bury excess food for sparser times, which is an important seed dispersal role in the rainforest. They sit on their hind legs to eat, holding the food in their fore-feet. They are mostly active early morning and evening and this is when they forage for food.

Agouti are timid animals and are generally solitary, choosing to live and feed alone once they become fully independent of their family group of parents and siblings. They then come together for mating purposes.  

They communicate with each other using grunts, squeals and screams as well as some posturing and stamping of their hind feet.  

Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)

Diet: Herbivores.
Home: Central and South America.

Native to Central and South America, capybara are the world’s largest rodent. They can grow up to 130cm long and weigh 37kg-67kg depending on gender (females are usually larger than males).  They live between eight and 10 years.

Also known as ‘water hogs’ or ‘water pigs’, these semi-aquatic rodents need water to keep their dry skin moist, so are found in estuaries, marshes, river banks and along streams. If threatened by predators, they will dive into water for protection. They can even sleep in shallow water as their eyes, ears and nostrils are at the top of their heads. They have partially webbed toes and are very strong swimmers. They are crepuscular (active during dawn or dusk) and herbivorous.  Like other rodents, their teeth grow continuously and need to be worn down by grazing.  

Capybaras are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of endangered species.