The Pied tamarin is white on its shoulders and front, with a striking dark brown back, hind part and upper tail. The fur lightens to a rust color on the lower belly, inner thighs and underside of the tail. The bald head has black skin and the large ears add to the distinguished appearance of this species.
Weighing up to eight pounds, this rodent is considered delicious and is hunted by humans throughout its range, from the Mexican state of Chiapas through Central America to northern South America. It has also been introduced to Cuba and the Cayman Islands. They eat fruit and nuts, which they hold in their paws like a squirrel. They have two to four young at a time. Males and females form permanent pairs, though males stay away while the female is nursing. They may live up to 20 years, an unusual longevity for a rodent.
The 17 species of cottontails are entirely New World rabbits, in a different genus from domestic ones. They are distributed from Southern Canada to Northern Argentina. Eight are found in Mexico. This species, found in most of Mexico, as well as a large area of the western US, is named in honor of the famous bird painter, who also collected and painted many mammals. Cottontails make frequent appearances in the mythology and art of both the Mayans and Aztecs. In Mayan and Chinese tradition, a rabbit is the companion of the Moon Goddess.
In zoos, colonies of this species are like yeast — a few sent to another zoo soon reproduce to the carrying capacity of their exhibit, and more colonies can be established from there. From a few importations more than 30 years ago, there are now more than 6,000 of these fruit-eating bats distributed among more than 30 North American collections. This is a widespread species, found from Mexico to Paraguay. In the Mayan epic, the Popol Vuh, a bat, Zotz, stole the head of the Hero God Hunahpu for the Gods of the Underworld to use in a ballgame.
One of the world’s more brightly colored mammals, this marsupial is found only in the Huon Peninsula in Eastern New Guinea. It has only occasionally been exported for zoos, so that the North American zoo population of around fifty animals is carefully managed to make sure that, despite a limited gene pool, coming generations continue to be bred. One born at the DWA in 2007, was welcomed as particularly genetically valuable, and is now on breeding loan to the Calgary Zoo.
The two species of Choloepus (two-toed sloth) have two toes on their forelimbs, and three on their hind limbs. While the gentle Bradypus (three-toed sloth) eats only leaves of a few tree species, and are notoriously difficult to maintain in zoos, captive Choloepus enthusiastically eat all sorts of vegetables, as well as leaf-eater primate chow, and easily live for decades in captivity. Of the two species of Choloepus, both are found in South America, but only Hoffman’s occurs in Central America as well.
Though it is not at all rare in its native Northeastern South America, this startling-looking monkey has always been very rare in zoos. It had a reputation for being delicate in captivity, but since their arrival in Dallas in 2010, the ones at the DWA have proved robust, and have already produced offspring. They differ from White-faced sakis (whose tails usually hang straight down) by the continuous motion of their remarkably squirrel-like tails.
At times, the DWA troop of Red howler monkeys, unique in North America, are heard long before they are seen. The mechanical-sounding, rumbling growl is produced by an enormous larynx (voice box) and can be heard three miles away. The only animal sound that is louder is made by Blue whales. The howlers are often next to the ceiling of their high enclosure. While this South American primate was notorious for being difficult to keep in zoos, it has done well at the DWA, where a number have been born and raised.
Almost all mammals have seven cervical vertebrae (the bones in the neck); manatees have six, two-toed sloths have five and three-toed sloths have nine. They also have no gall-bladder nor appendix, and cannot regulate their body temperature. Their teeth all look like molars, with no incisors. Throughout their Central and South American range, they live entirely upon leaves. Because the DWA provides a constant supply of Cecropia leaves, our male, “Leno”, has thrived here since 2005, setting the captive age record outside of Tropical America.