South American coati on the loose in our urban jungle

2010-08-24 00:00

ANOTHER strange bear-like animal has been spotted, this time in Hilton.

It was photographed by Witness reader Charles Brunyee, who correctly identified the animal as a South American coatimundi (or coati). He said he saw it in his neighbour’s avocado tree last week.

Brunyee snapped the creature as it ambled along a paved trough in the middle of the garden.

A picture of the same animal, or one very similar, was published in The Witness’s Link section on July 9. It was spotted in a tree in Blackridge.

“We know this is an exotic animal and does not belong in our wild,” said local wildlife expert Mark Enslin.

He said the coati, a relation of the racoon, hails from the South American tropical forests where it lives in groups called “bands”.

Feeding on small mammals, lizards, insects, snails, fruit and nuts, the omnivorous coati eats while hanging upside down from trees.

Female coatis live in bands of up to 30 animals, while the males remain solitary. Coatis in captivity have been known to live 14 years.

Enslin said the animal was most likely brought into the country illegally and warned that, despite its cute features, the coati remains a wild animal.

“I have spoken to the various zoos and they don’t know of any [coati] around.”

Enslin and other animal experts have been tracking the coati since it first appeared in Blackridge.

“It is quite a lovely pet to have, but it is illegal to have it without a permit.

“I do ask the public if he is seen to please call me at 082 373 2396 at any hour. We don’t want harm to come to him,” Enslin said.

POLICE wildlife investigator Warrant Officer Riaan van Rooyen told The Witness that they are investigating numerous cases of people illegally importing exotic creatures like lizards and other reptiles and birds. He emphasised that anyone who finds the animal should not try to kill it.

“If we can catch this animal we will obtain the necessary permits and relocate it,” Van Rooyen said.

Anyone with any information on how the animal got to the city’s suburbs should contact Van Rooyen on 082 376 2499.

If you see the coatimundi, call Mark Enslin at 082 373 2396 or Warrant Officer Riaan van Rooyen at 082 376 2499.

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