A Daughter for the Ghost of the Andes

For the first time in history, one of the world’s least known mammals, the enigmatic mountain coati (Nasuella olivacea), has conceived and given birth in captivity. The birth took place at Bioparque La Reserva, a wildlife park in Cota, Colombia, that focuses on the conservation of Colombian wildlife.

Durrell Conservation Academy graduate Ivan Lozano-Ortega, who founded Bioparque La Reserva, says the 2-month old coati is doing very well. “This is the result of a scientific effort that took more than a decade.”

Ivan has been collaborating with Durrell since he completed the DESMAN course at the Durrell Conservation Academy in 1997. He is a great supporter of Durrell’s work, so much so that after his training at the Academy he went on to set up his own wildlife park in Colombia, modelled on the Durrell ethos. Since then, we have worked together in the form of keeper exchanges, one specifically working with the first mountain coatis at Bioparque La Reserva.

While coatis exist throughout Central and South America, western mountain coatis have only been observed in the higher-located areas of the Andes mountains of Colombia and Ecuador, and only rarely. This beautiful species of coati is smaller and more slender than the robust and common ring-tailed coati as seen at Jersey Zoo. It uses its delicate long snout to search the thick mosses of the páramo for worms and other invertebrate food. Due to its elusive behaviour, this species is sometimes known as the ‘Ghost of the Andes’. The lack of sightings could also be due to habitat destruction, because agricultural practices are encroaching into the upland areas of its habitat.

With this birth, useful data has been collated which could help the future conservation of the species. It is expected that the new female will become part of an ex-situ breeding programme to help conserve this intriguing species.