The Pied tamarin (Saguinus bicolor) 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.
Visitors at the DWA often refer to our resident Jaguars, as “cheetahs” or “leopards”. Of these three cats, only Jaguars have spots inside spots. They are also bigger, some weighing over 300 pounds (tigers and lions are the only bigger cats). Jaguars have a much stockier build and are excellent swimmers. They have massive jaws, with twice the biting power of a lion. They live alone, except when a female raises cubs. Found from Arizona to Argentina, they are endangered, due to hunting for their pelts and habitat loss. They often live 20 years in zoos.
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.
Reminding some people of guinea pigs, or annoyed teddy bears, these ten pound mammals are considered by zoologists to be related to the ancestors of elephants and manatees. The skull displays similarities to these animals and this is also supported by DNA research. Found in many parts of Africa, as well as Arabia and the Middle East, they live in cliffs, kopjes, and other rocky areas, in groups of up to 80, led by a dominant male.
The two species of two-toed sloths have two toes on their forelimbs, but three on their hindlimbs. While the gentle three-toed sloths eat only leaves of a few species, and are notoriously difficult to maintain in zoos, captive two-toed enthusiastically eat all sorts of common fruits and vegetables, as well as monkey chow, and easily live for decades in captivity. Of the two species of two-toed Sloths, 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.