South America Viva
South America is a land of contrasts, full of colourful, vibrant biodiversity. Spend some time in South America Viva and get up close and personal with wildlife that you may have never heard of!
Capybara – Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris
A rodent the size of a goat?! The capybara is the largest rodent in the world! With partially webbed feet and big thick bodies, they are very impressive animals to look at. Their native habitat is the wetlands of South America, for this reason they spend a lot of time in the water and can remain submerged in the water for up to 5 minutes.
Typically living in groups of 10-20 individuals, capybara groups can consist of as many as 50-100 individuals in the dry season. They don’t look like the most agile creatures, they have been known to run as fast as a horse. They are equally as agile in the water often entering the water to avoid predation, they can even sleep in the water, leaving their nostrils out the water to breathe.
Mara – Dolichotis patagonum
Looking like a cross between a huge rabbit and a small deer, the mara is the world’s fourth largest rodent. Mara can walk, hop, gallop and bounce on all four legs. They have been clocked at 45mph! Mara mate for life, and typically have 1-3 offspring a year. Mara babies are very well developed when they are born usually grazing within the first 24 hours of their life.
The Mara is classified as near threatened, their numbers have been greatly affected by hunting and habitat loss.
Azara’s Agouti – Dasyprocta azarae
Agoutis are also rodents. They spend a lot of time hiding from predators in the rainforest. If a predator such as a jaguar approaches they may freeze, make an alarm call or raise the long hairs on its rump to scare the enemy away. Azara’s Agoutis diet mainly consists of nuts, fruits and plant material and are though to be the only mammal that can open a brazil nut due to their exceptionally sharp teeth.
Agouti’s are known as jungle gardeners because they often bury nuts and seeds, then forget where they put them, aiding plants and trees to grow. Azara’s Agoutis have a gestation period of around 90 days, typically 2-4 young are born in a burrow and will stay with their mother until they can fend for themselves to go and live a solitary lifestyle.
Squirrel Monkey – Saimiri sciureus
Squirrel Monkeys live in groups called troops, the groups consist of a number of males, with one dominant male. They can be very vocal using up to 26 different calls. Squirrel Monkeys are very important to the survival of South American rainforests, they control the insect population and disperse seeds.
Squirrel Monkeys live together in groups of up to 100 members, however occasionally smaller groups can break off and form troops. Mainly eating fruit and insects, Squirrel Monkeys are omnivores and have been known to eat seeds, nuts, leaves, flowers and even eggs.
Common Marmoset – Callithrix jacchus
The marmosets live in the oak tree opposite South America. Like all primates marmosets are very expressive. Facial expressions and vocalisations convey their social status as well as their emotional status. Marmosets have morphological adaptations to their teeth, their lower incisors are long and very sharp, marmosets use these to gnaw holes in tree bark to produce sap, which they then feed off. If you look closely, you will notice the gnaw marks in our oak tree.
Marmosets live in extended families, typically containing up 15 members, only a few members of these groups are allowed to breed. Usually the groups contain 1-2 breeding females and 1 breeding male, when the breeding male dies the group will fission with another group that has a breeding male. Breeding members in the group utilise non breeding members to help raise their young, behaviorally suppressing the reproduction of other members in the group.
Giant Anteater – Myrmecophaga tridactyla
Giant Anteaters are solitary animals found in a variety of habitats in South America from grasslands to rain forest. They are one of the most unusual mammals with a long snout and tongue and large, powerful claws. These adaptations allow them to dig in to an ant and termite nests and then using their long tongue lick up hundreds of ants or termites. They are insectivores and can eat up to 30,000 insects a day.
Their tongue is covered in backward-curving papillae which is coated in a thick sticky saliva, great for eating ants and termites!
The Giant Anteater is classified as vulnerable, they are often killed in collisions with vehicles, hunted and populations have been reduced due to loss of habitat.
South American Coati – Nasua nasua
Coatis are very active and agile, they are at home high up in the trees as well as on the ground. They inhabit the tropical forests and woodlands of South America. They are omnivorous which means they have a varied diet of fruits, vegetables and meat. Coati females live in large family groups but males tend to be solitary.
Six-Banded Armadillo – Euphractus sexcinctus
Located under the large oak tree with the marmosets live our six-banded armadillos. Armadillos are omnivorous which means they eat a variety of fruit, veg, insects and small animals. They can curl up in a ball, like a woodlouse, and their bony armour protects them from predators in the South American forests and savannahs.
Closely related to sloths and anteaters, armadillos are equipped with sharp claws that are great for digging, you will frequently see our armadillos digging. Six banded armadillos are quite solitary, and unlike most armadillos are diurnal not nocturnal.
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