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Earthwatch team with a coatimundi
Our First Coati
by Graham Reynolds, Earthwatch Team Member

Hi! My name is Graham (Robert) Reynolds. I am a seventeen-year-old high school junior at Carolina Day School and I live in Asheville, North Carolina. I'm down here in Jalisco, Mexico, working with Carlos and Alberto and a team of about ten other volunteers. We are staying at the Chamela biological field station, located in the Chamela-Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve.

The Mexican dry tropical forest, which is mostly what makes up the reserve, is an endangered ecosystem and it is very fragile. Through this project we are hoping to better understand the life-styles and habits of several different kinds of carnivores in the dry forests so that in the future we can better help protect them.

The animal in this picture is a coatimundi (co-wa-ti-mun-di), or 'coati' for short. They are a relative of the raccoon and have a long snout. We have already caught several posssums, but this is the first target animal, or carnivore, that we are trying to catch that has shown up in the traps. It is the first coati we have found since we have been here, and we were all very excited to find it.

Many of you may wonder what we do with the animal once we catch it. First of all, we inject it with an anesthesia, which basically puts it to sleep for about 20 minutes. Then, we take it out of the cage and measure it. This coati was 121 cm long and weighed 5.2 kilograms. By looking at its weight and its teeth, which were long and sharp, we determined this coati to be about three to four years old. It is a young male and had lots of scars on its neck, belly, and hind legs, probably from fighting with other coatis.

After taking the measurements, we tattooed its ear with the number 64, which we will use to identify it if we ever catch it again. Once the shot wore off, which was just after this picture was taken, the coati was not very happy to be surrounded by people. He started to growl and get anxious, so we knew it was time to let him go.

We were very happy to have caught this coati and we hope that in the next few days we will catch a lot more. If we are lucky, we are also hoping to catch the elusive ocelot, a beautiful cat that is covered with spots. If we catch one, I will be sure to let you know!

Photo courtesy of Meg Warren/Earthwatch Institute