South American coati (Nasua nasua)

South American coati young
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST

Top facts

  • The South American coati is easily recognised by its reddish-brown fur, banded tail and elongated, flexible snout.
  • The name ‘coati’ comes from native American Indian words meaning ‘belt’ and ‘nose’, referring to the way coatis tuck their nose into their belly while sleeping.
  • Female South American coatis live in groups which forage and rest together, but adult males are usually solitary.
  • The South American coati has a varied diet, and uses its flexible nose to probe into crevices and leaf litter in search of food.
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South American coati fact file

South American coati description

GenusNasua (1)

The South American coati (Nasua nasua) is a member of the raccoon family and is easily recognised by its reddish-brown fur and elongated snout. Although this species is quite variable in colour, the usual colouration is an orange or reddish to dark brown or black (2) (4). The body also often has an overlay of some yellow. The South American coati’s snout, however, is dark brown to black, with more yellow hair towards the front, giving a somewhat grizzled appearance (4).

White spots are found around the South American coati’s eyes. Its ears are short and rounded, and have a dark outer colouring and white insides (4). The South American coati has a distinctive elongated, pointed snout, ending in a flexible nose that protrudes beyond the end of the lower jaw (2) (4).

The belly of the South American coati is white or yellowish to light brown, while the feet are dark brown to black (2) (4). The tail, like that of many other members of the raccoon family (Procyonidae), has a series of rings, which in the case of the South American coati are yellow or light brown. However, in some individuals the tail rings may be quite faint (4). The South American coati’s tail is long, slender and tapering, and is often held erect while the animal is foraging (2) (4).

The South American coati’s front feet have long, blunt and slightly curved claws and webbing between the toes, whereas the back feet have shorter claws. This species has large canine teeth, which are usually larger in males than in females (4), and the males are also larger than the females in overall body size (2).

A number of subspecies of South American coati have been recognised (4) (5). The common name of this species comes from the native Tupian Indian words cua, meaning ‘belt’, and tim, meaning ‘nose’, and refers to the coati’s habit of sleeping with its nose tucked into its belly. Its scientific name, Nasua, comes from the Latin word for ‘nose’, referring to its characteristically long snout (4).

Also known as
brown-nosed coati, coatimundi, ring-tailed coati, southern coati.
Achuni, Coatí.
Head-body length: 41 - 67 cm (2)
Tail length: 32 - 69 cm (2)
Body mass: 3.5 - 6 kg (2)

South American coati biology

The South American coati is usually active during the day, and spends its nights sleeping in trees. However, the males are often active at night. The coati spends much of its time foraging in trees, but can also be found searching for food on the ground. It uses its tail to help keep it balanced while moving around and travels between 1.5 and 2 kilometres a day looking for food (2). When disturbed in the trees, the South American coati typically jumps down and escapes across the ground (4).

The South American coati is an omnivore and eats a variety of fruit and invertebrates, including insects, spiders, scorpions, crabs, centipedes and millipedes. This species has also been known to eat vertebrates and carrion when available, and its diet varies with location and also with season (4) (6). The South American coati has been seen eating tarantulas after rolling them around to remove their irritating hairs (4).

The South American coati’s elongated snout is very useful for searching crevices and holes for food (2). Studies have shown that the South American coati is an important seed disperser. When it consumes fruits, the seeds pass through its digestive tract and are then released in its droppings in other places (6).

Adult male South American coatis live solitary lives while females and immature males travel in groups of up to 30 individuals. These groups vary in size depending on where they live, and the members of the group give constant vocalisations to stay in contact with each other (4). As in the closely related white-nosed coati (Nasua narica), adult male South American coatis are likely to be excluded from groups by collective aggression from the females. However, during the breeding season a single adult male is allowed into each female group (2).

Mating in this species usually occurs between October and February, with births occurring in March and April. The gestation period of the South American coati lasts 74 to 77 days. In captivity, litter sizes range from one to seven young, with three to four being the most common. Young South American coatis open their eyes at around ten days old. They can stand around day 19 and walk well by day 24, and their climbing abilities develop shortly thereafter, at around 26 days old. In the wild, female South American coatis leave their group to build a nest in a tree, which is where they give birth. After five to six weeks the female returns to the group with her young (4).

Potential predators of the coati include jaguars (Panthera onca), pumas (Puma concolor), ocelots (Leopardus pardalis) and jaguarundis (Puma yagouaroundi) (4).


South American coati range

The South American coati is broadly distributed in South America. It ranges from Colombia and Venezuela in the north to Uruguay and northern Argentina in the south (1) (2) (4). The species has been introduced to Robinson Crusoe, one of the Juan Fernández Islands of Chile (1) (4), and is now also found in Cumbria, UK, as a result of escapes from zoos and collections and possibly through deliberate release (6).


South American coati habitat

The South American coati lives primarily in forest habitats, including deciduous forest, evergreen forest, gallery forest, cerrado and dry scrub forest. This species occupies a wide range of elevations, reaching up to 2,500 metres in the Andes (1) (4).


South American coati status

The South American coati is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix III of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


South American coati threats

The South American coati is regularly hunted by humans. However, although it is often an important food source, some native people avoid eating the South American coati because of cultural taboos or taste preferences (4).

In addition to hunting, intensive deforestation and dam-building also have negative effects on the population of the South American coati (1) (4). Coatis are also seen as interesting and inquisitive pets, and may potentially be affected by collection from the wild. The population of this species is likely to be declining, but the South American coati is still widespread and relatively common, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1).

South American coatis were introduced to the island of Robinson Crusoe when two pregnant females escaped. The population has since grown and the species is causing damage to native flora on Robinson Crusoe, as well as possibly being the cause of the decline in the Juan Fernández firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) on the island (4).

In the UK, the South American coati is not known to be having any impact at present on the ecosystems it inhabits. However, it is thought that this species could compete with or predate native wildlife should it become established (8).


South American coati conservation

The South American coati occurs in several protected areas (1) and is listed on Appendix III of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that this species is protected by at least one country and that country wants other members of CITES to help control trade in this species. Currently, the subspecies Nasua nasua solitaria is protected by CITES in Uruguay (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Find out more about the South American coati and other coati species:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


The flesh of a dead animal.
A vast, tropical woodland-savanna ecosystem of Brazil, the most extensive of its type in South America. The cerrado includes savanna, woodland-savanna and dry forest ecosystems, and has a pronounced dry season.
Deciduous forest
Forest consisting mainly of deciduous trees, which shed their leaves at the end of the growing season.
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
Gallery forest
Forest growing along a river or stream.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
An organism that feeds on both plants and animals.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Animals with a backbone, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2013)
  2. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  3. CITES (January, 2013)
  4. Gompper, M.E.and Decker, D.M. (1998) Nasua nasua. Mammalian Species, 580: 1-9. Available at:
  5. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) (February, 2013)
  6. GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Identification Sheet - Coatimundi (October, 2013)
  7. Alves-Costa, C.P., Da Fonseca, G.A.B. and Christófaro, C. (2004) Variation in the diet of the brown-nosed coati (Nasua nasua) in southeastern Brazil. Journal of Mammalogy, 85(3): 478-482.
  8. GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS): Factsheet - Coatimundi (October, 2013)

Image credit

South American coati young  
South American coati young

© Pete Oxford /

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