Three-Banded Armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) “Arnold”
Armadillo is a Spanish word that means “little-armored one.” The “armor” isn’t the only protection this armadillo has from predators. When a frightened three-banded armadillo curls up into a ball, it often leaves a space open. If a predator puts a paw or nose into that space to try to pry the armadillo open, the little animal slams its shell shut—ouch! Only three-banded armadillo can curl into the ball to protect itself from predators. Other armadillos run or dig a hole when they need to escape from predators. There are 20 species throughout the world. Armadillos are the only mammals covered by a shell. But it’s different than a seashell or a tortoise shell. An armadillo’s shell is made up of bony plates covered by thick, hard skin. Besides insects, they like to eat small mammals, baby birds, eggs, carrion, roots and fruit. Like anteaters, they have long sticky tongue that works perfectly when they hunt ants and termites. Armadillos are great swimmers. They can hold their breath for 6 minutes when they dive.
Fennec Fox (Vulpes zerda) “Francesca”
The Fennec fox is the smallest of all the world’s foxes, weighing only 2.2 pounds. It has enormous ears, measuring 6 inches, which it appears to have borrowed from a much bigger relative. Fennec foxes are sometimes called “desert foxes” because they live in desert zones of North Africa and the Sinai and Arabian peninsulas. They are nocturnal and avoid the daytime heat of the desert environment.Their batlike ears radiate body heat and help keep the foxes cool. They also have long, thick, soft fur coats with a wooly undercoat that insulates them during cold nights and protects them from the hot sun during the day. They have been known to jump in the air 2 feet (.6 meters) high from a standing position, and they are able to leap a distance of 4 feet. These foxes dwell in small groups of up to ten individuals. Like dogs and other canids, male Fennecs mark their territory with urine. They forage for plants but also eat rodents, eggs, reptiles, and insects. Like most desert dwellers, the Fennec fox has the ability to go for long periods without water. These foxes are cream-colored with black-tipped tails.
Kinkajou (Potos flavus)
Central and South America
The Kinkajou, also called “night walkers” or “Honeybears”, lives in tropical rain forests from southern Mexico through Brazil. Its small, hand-like feet have fingers that are a bit webbed and end with sharp little claws. Dense, wooly fur acts as a raincoat to help keep the animal dry. The Kinkajou’s tail is longer than its head and body and is thickly furred and slightly prehensile. The scientific name for the Kinkajou is Potos flavus. This roughly translates to golden drinker, as the Kinkajou has a golden-brown coat and is fond of nectar. The common name Kinkajou comes from a word that means honey bear, as this slender animal raids beehives for the golden liquid. As you might have guessed, the Kinkajou has quite a sweet tooth! Looking a bit like a monkey, Kinkajous are often mistakenly called primates. They do have many traits and features like those of primates. But kinkajous are carnivores in the family Procyonidae, which includes raccoons, coatis, ringtails, and olingos. Kinkajous and binturongs are the only two carnivores that have a prehensile tail. The tail is for balance, to hold onto branches while reaching for food, and even to snuggle with while sleeping. Kinkajous can hang by the tip of their strong tail, then turn their body in such a way that they can climb back up their own tail!
Owl Monkey (Aotus miconax) “Archer”
Central and South America
Owl monkeys (Aotus), also called night monkeys, are the only nocturnal monkeys in the New World. Their large eyes give them excellent night vision. Their fur is wooly and their ears are hardly visible beneath their dense fur. Their habitats range from Panama to Argentina. They are the most widely distributed of the New World monkeys. Despite this fact, their survival is threatened by habitat loss, hunting for food, and capture for use in pharmaceutical research. They live in trees, spending daylight hours hidden in hollows or in vine tangles. At sundown, they move about easily on all fours on branches and vines in the forests. They can leap across gaps up to 16-feet; a great distance for their tiny size. Owl monkeys are most active one hour after dusk and one hour before dawn. In regions where there are fewer daytime predators, owl monkeys are more active during the day. Strictly nocturnal owl monkeys are more than twice as active during a full moon. They eat fruit, insects, leaves, and nectar. Because of their nighttime activity, there is less competition with daytime fruit eaters, plus they gain the advantage of meals of larger nocturnal insects. They are particularly adept at grabbing flying insect out of the air or snatching them off of a branch.
Chinchilla (Chinchilla lanigera)
Chinchillas are two species of crepuscular rodents, slightly larger and more robust than ground squirrels. They are native to the Andes mountains in South America and live in colonies called “herds” at high elevations up to 14,000 ft. Historically, chinchillas lived in an area that included parts of Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile, but today colonies in the wild are known only in Chile. Along with their relatives, viscachas, they make up the family Chinchillidae. The chinchilla has the second-densest fur of any land mammal, exceeded only by the sea otter and is named after the Chincha people of the Andes, who once wore its dense, velvet-like fur. By the end of the 19th century, chinchillas had become quite rare due to hunting for their ultra-soft fur. Most chinchillas currently used by the fur industry for clothing and other accessories are farm-raised. In the wild, chinchillas have been observed eating plant leaves, fruits, seeds, and small insects.
African Pygmy Hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris)
African pygmy hedgehogs have been domesticated from the African four-toed or white-bellied hedgehogs and may also have breeding influence from the Algerian hedgehog. Hedgehogs are solitary, nocturnal animals. They have poor vision and rely highly on smell, touch, and hearing to navigate and hunt. Hedgehogs can cover miles in a single night foraging for food. They have a high tolerance for toxins and have been seen consuming toxic plants, poisonous amphibians, and even scorpions! If they encounter a predator, hedgehogs roll tightly into a ball, protecting their head, belly, and legs. In the wild, a hedgehog is opportunistic and will eat many things, but the majority of the diet comprises insects, supplemented with small snakes, amphibians, bird eggs, snails, worms, fruit, and grassroots.