Brown Nosed Coati (Nasua nasua): Iconic Symbol of Iguazu Falls Park and Wild Pet of Brazil

by DerdriuMarriner

The brown-nosed, ring-tailed, South American coati (Nasua nasua) is an amusingly social, eminently domesticable, intelligently observant wild species of the subtropics and tropics.

Brown-nosed coatis range as familiar mammals across the vast South American country of Brazil and spill into neighboring countries as well.

Coati kits learn critical skills of balance and survival as they finesse awareness of their lengthy tails, an appendage that is essential to their agility and mobility. Their love of fruits is expressed audibly with contented chomping. This New World mammal is linked with the iconic Iguaçu Falls, which border Brazil's southern state of Paraná and Argentina's northeastern province of Misiones, as a favorite habitat.

Their tamability makes brown-nosed coatis welcome as amiable pets.

South American coati (Nasua nasua)

Iguaçu, State of Paraná, southern Brazil.
Iguaçu, State of Paraná, southern Brazil.


Brown-nosed coatis are single parent-raised. They begin life as blind, fur-less 150-gram (5.3-ounce) bundles in a nest which the mother builds -- squirrel-like high up in the treetops -- three weeks before delivery. They quickly dominate mobility skills, which can be challenging since tails account for half -- or a bit more -- of the diurnal mammal's total length and since trail-blazing involves jumping from trees, negotiating woodland terrains, and scampering up and down slopes and surfaces.

One of the newborn coati's most daunting tasks in fact is learning to use the tail as an informational and navigational aid:

  • anchoring around branches and twigs during tree-trunk descents,
  • curling around a subterranean prey's rocky hideaways, and
  • extending upward during mass marches of adult females -- adult males are reclusive and soliltary outside mating seasons -- and juvenile females and males.

With communication and orientation skills in tow, mothers and juveniles then move to life between arboreal meal- and night-times in nests and ground-level foraging and socializing with bands. Fruit harvesting times indeed proffer optimum opportunities for the omnivore's fans to hear brown-nosed coatis chomping contentedly and whining softly as well as to witness game-playing and role-modeling behaviors. Along with ball-tossing games, fruits also serve as guaranteed ploys for launching interactions with tameable, trainable wild coatis. The interaction will last the agile, fleet, graceful, loyal coati's lifetime -- 7 to 15 years in the wild, 17 to 20 in captivity.


Cataratas Do Iguacu, southwestern Paraná, southwestern Brazil
Cataratas Do Iguacu, southwestern Paraná, southwestern Brazil

Nasua nasua: brown-nosed coati with 13 geographically-defined subspecies


Facial features and ringed tails are raccoon hallmarks. They also function as signature looks for other procyonids in the raccoon family, Procyonidae.  One particularly beloved bearer of head and tail adornments is Brazil’s coati.

The name comes from the Tupí branch of the ancient Tupí-Guarani family of languages in South America. It numbers among the mammal’s common names:

  • Brazilian aardvark and Brazilian, brown-nosed, ring-tailed or South American coati in English;
  • Coatí de cola anillada, coatí mundi, and coatí sudamericano in Spanish;
  • Coati à queue annelée, coati commun, and coati roux in French;
  • Quati, quati de bando, quati de cauda anelada, quati de vara, and quati mundéu in Portuguese;
  • Rode neusbeer in Dutch.

Brazil’s coati also responds to the scientific name Nasua nasua. Scientists further subdivide the genus and species into geographically-defined subspecies:

  • aricana, Paraguayan;
  • boliviensis, Bolivian;
  • candace, Colombian;
  • cinerascens, Chaco of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay;
  • dorsalis, Amazonian of Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela;
  • manium, Ecuadorian;
  • molaris;
  • montana, Mountain/Peruvian of Brazil, Peru;
  • nasua, North Brazilian of Brazil, French Guiana;
  • quichua, Azuay of Ecuador;
  • solitaria, Coatimundi/South Brazilian of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay;
  • spadicea, Uruguayan of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay;
  • vittata, Guyanan of French Guiana, Guyana, Surinam, Venezuela.

All subspecies tend to inhabit Brazil since South America’s super-country claims the greatest brown-nosed coati populations. The subspecies most likely to be encountered in Brazil nevertheless will tend toward:

  • Amazonian, mountain and north Brazilian coatis northward;
  • Chaco, coatimundi and Uruguayan coatis southward.



Brown-nosed coatis generally appreciate subtropical and tropical South America’s humid, warm lowlands. This predilection perhaps explains why they are native to 11 -- Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela -- of the continent’s 12 sovereign states and one -- French Guiana -- of the continent’s two non-sovereign areas. Brown-nosed coati populations indeed will be absent from:

  • Falkland Islands, off coastal southeastern Argentina;
  • Mainland Chile.

They nevertheless will be found off coastal southwestern Chile on Robinson Crusoe Island -- largest of the islands within the Juan Fernández Archipelago -- where their status is that of introduced mammals.

The above-mentioned insular introduction attests to the brown-nosed coati’s adaptability and altitudinal preferences. Robinson Crusoe Island’s geography can be described as showcasing ridges, mountains and valleys. The island’s highest point is atop El Yunque, 3,002 feet (915 meters) above sea level.


Brown-nosed coatis are not found on mainland Chile but do inhabit, as introduced mammals, Robinson Crusoe Island in Juan Fernandez Archipelago, off Chile's southwestern coast.

Cumberland Bay: "View of Robinson Crusoe Island - coast and mountains, in the Archipelago Juan Fernandez, Chile."
Cumberland Bay: "View of Robinson Crusoe Island - coast and mountains, in the Archipelago Juan Fernandez, Chile."


Brown-nosed coatis may be found at altitudes up to 3,000-3,500 feet (9,843-11,483 meters) above sea level. They generally prefer elevations at 2,500 feet (762 meters). They usually respect the eastern and western mountain coatis’ (Nasuella meridensis, N. olivacea) claims to higher elevations -- 6,600 to 13,000 feet (2,000-4,000 meters) -- on peaks traversing central Ecuador and Colombia and southeastern Venezuela.

Whatever the elevation, South American coatis appreciate the security of forest and woodland life. They build nests high up in the canopy. They meet many of their dietary requirements through foraging for arboreal invertebrates, plucking fruit, and raiding bird nests.


brown-nosed coatis: tree climbers with a penchant for building skyscraping nests

color plate by W.S. (Walter Sydney) Berridge
W. Percival Westell, Book of the Animal Kingdom Mammals (1910)., Plate IV, opp. p. 50
W. Percival Westell, Book of the Animal Kingdom Mammals (1910)., Plate IV, opp. p. 50


Danger, food, mating and socialization call brown-nosed coatis away from arboreal lifestyles. For example, they confuse natural enemies by:

  • Scaling tree trunks;
  • Uttering loud, rapid clicks and woofs.

The super-fast coati then jumps downward and shelters in cavities, holes and niches. It may challenge agile but heavier, larger foxes, jaguars and jaguarundis to equal the South American coati’s arboreal agility or invade the survival-oriented mammal’s inaccessible hideaways.


red and grey phases of jaguarundi: formidable predator of brown-nosed coatis

illustration by artistic ornithologist Louis Agassiz Fuertes (February 7, 1874 – August 22, 1927)
from drawings by Louis Agassiz Fuertes
from drawings by Louis Agassiz Fuertes


Predators usually catch brown-nosed coatis at their most vulnerable. While descending trees head-first and squirrel-like, South American coatis usually have in mind opportunities for eating, mating or socializing. They tend to be successful food-gatherers since they employ crushing jaws, mobile snouts, 20 non-retractable claws, and 40 sharp teeth against:

  • Frogs;
  • Ground-dwelling invertebrates;
  • Small mammals.

They will blaze through:

  • Crevices, which flexible snouts expand;
  • Logs, which powerful claws open;
  • Rocks, which sturdy limbs overturn.

Fruits nevertheless constitute the energy source and key determinant in coati lifestyles. Their harvest delimits coati mating seasons. Females descend ground-ward for multiple matings. Gestation lasts 77 days, with the last half spent in food-stocking and nest-building.

Litters average 2-4 young. Newborns learn survival skills from their mothers during the first 4-6 weeks in the nest. They supplement that learning through role-modeling from adults and socialization with peers in bands formed by female coatis. Juvenile females will remain with their mother’s band whereas males generally become solitary upon reaching sexual maturity at age 3.


Nasua nasua

Jardín Zoológico de América, western Provincia de Buenos Aires, east central Argentina
Jardín Zoológico de América, western Provincia de Buenos Aires, east central Argentina


All brown-nosed coatis attain adult size by the time that females reach sexual maturity, at age 2. Adult head-and-body and tail lengths can mature respectively to 16 - 28 inches (41 - 70 centimeters) and 12.5 - 28 inches (32 - 70 centimeters).  Adult weights hover between 5.5 and 15 pounds (2.5 - 7.0 kilograms). Females showcase slenderer, smaller versions of the brown-nosed coati’s graceful “look.” They tend to occupy the above-mentioned lower ranges since males are noticeably bigger and heavier.

South American coatis can have lithe but muscular appearances. They do not suffer from obesity in the wild. They tend to be active during the day when fructose-based metabolisms burn calories most efficiently. They nevertheless will structure activities around noontime naps when hot, humid subtropical and tropical days are at their most enervating.

But in captivity, brown-nosed coatis experience problems with claws, fur, teeth and weight. As pets and zoo-dwellers, South American coatis have to be able to dig to prevent claw overgrowth. Their coat -- whose color varies from grey to red or yellow brown -- loses its sheen from pet food- or protein-heavy diets. Diets low in fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables and in live amphibians, invertebrates and mammals may assail a coati’s 40 teeth with:

  • Dental abrasions, fractures and stains;
  • Gingivitis;
  • Periodontitis;
  • Plaque.

Inappropriate diets will join with insufficient exercise in causing captive brown-nosed coatis to suffer from diabetes, kidney problems, and obesity. Unhappy, unhealthy coatis will not utter charming, soft whines.


Innocents Abroad: Ring-tailed Coati Nasua nasua in England

Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxfordshire, South East England
Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxfordshire, South East England


Brown-nosed coatis enjoy favorable reputations throughout South America. Their visibility is particularly high in Brazil. Brazil's coati populations proffer the greatest subspecies diversity. 

Ring-tailed coatis are popular choices for domestication and exhibition. Their presence in national parks always draws the greatest crowds and longest queues of enthusiastic tourists and vacationers. Their appeal rests on coati amiability, beauty and cleverness.

South-American coatis appreciate sheltered ledges and niches. They easily consider home houses on stilts and structures in trees. They dislike cages and enclosures since forest-built homes consist of arboreal nests in 2.2 - mile (1-kilometer) diameter territories where bands of 20 to 30 (minimum 10, maximum 60) overlap and survive.

Spaces full of food sources and learning fun attract brown-nosed coatis to farms, residences and villages in remote, rural Brazil and -- excepting mainland Chile -- the rest of continental South America. Coatis evidence cat-like commitments to keeping spaces clean. They excel at applying claws, snout, teeth and tongue to keeping paws lustrously black, stomachs pristinely light-colored, and tails roughly color-differentiated.

Brown-nosed, ring-tailed, South American coatis enjoy participating in games which involve fetching lightweight, throwable objects whose retrieval injures no injured body parts. Many coati-lovers in fact have stories about the mammal's dexterity in informal soccer games. It is no wonder that they additionally link with yet another of Argentina's, Brazil's and South America's greatest sources of continental/national pride. Brown-nosed coatis indeed serve as symbols of Iguaçu/Iguazú National Park.


Numerous islands pockmark 1.7 mile (2.7 km) long edge of Iguaçu Falls, creating 150 to 300 smaller waterfalls and cataracts.

panorama of South America's iconic waterfalls, Iguazu Falls
panorama of South America's iconic waterfalls, Iguazu Falls


Spectacular falls embellish southeastern Brazil's and northeastern Argentina's borders. They go by many names, of which the commonest designations include:

  • Cataratas del Iguazú in Spanish;

  • Cataratas do Iguaçu in Portuguese;

  • Chororo Yguasu in Guaraní, an indigenous language which is spoken in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay and which shares official language status with Spanish in Paraguay.

Their original meaning to Tupí-Guaraní family language-speakers inheres in juxtaposing the words y (“water”) and ûasú (“big”) to mean “large water (body).” By whatever name they are designated, the waterfalls merit incorporation on the New Seven Wonders of the World Foundation's New Wonders of Nature list. Since November 11, 2011, they take their place alongside:

  • Amazon's Rainforest and River;

  • Indonesia's Komodo Island;

  • Philippines' Puerto Princesa Underground River;

  • South Africa's Table Mountain;

  • South Korea's Jeju Island;

  • Vietnam's Halong Bay.

Their concomitant national parks were created in Argentina in 1934 and Brazil in 1939. Both conservation areas were included among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites in 1984.

Both parks together attract millions of yearly visitors. They offer visitors entertaining glimpses of subtropical fauna and informative views of subtropical flora. All wildlife showcases the well-being possible proximitous to the clean sprays and clear waters of the falls and same-named river.

No visit to Brazil -- or South America -- will be authentically complete without viewing brown-nosed coatis and visiting southern Brazil's Parque Nacional do Iguaçu and northern Argentina's Parque Nacional Iguazú.


brown-nosed coati: trapeze artist

Marwell Wildlife, Owslebury, Hampshire County, south England
Marwell Wildlife, Owslebury, Hampshire County, south England



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Nasua nasua in the Old World:

Nosál červený (Czech), South American Coati
Zoo Praha, Czech Republic
Zoo Praha, Czech Republic

Sources Consulted


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Freitas E.P., S.C. Rahal, C.R. Teixeira, R.H.F. Teixeira, G.M. Mendes and M.A. Gioso. (June 2008). “Oral Cavity Evaluation and Dental Chart Registration of Coati (Nasua nasua) in Captivity.” Journal of Veterinary Dentistry 25(2): 110-117. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

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Grant S. (2006). "Coatimundi (coati) (Nasua sp.)." Exotic DVM 8(6):22. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

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Hamilton V. (1995). Jaguarundi. Blue Sky Press.

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Landau E. (1996). Tropical Forest Mammals.Children's Press.

Lydekker, Richard, ed. (1894). The Royal Natural History. Illustrated with Seventy-two Coloured Plates and Sixteen Hundred Engravings. Vol. II Section III. London and New York: Frederick Warne & Co. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

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Murie O.J. (1982). Animal Tracks. Houghton Mifflin Co: Peterson Field Guide Series.

"Nasua nasua." Retrieved December 22, 2013.

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Nelson, Edward William. (1916). The Larger North American Mammals. With Sixty-one Illustrations and Frontispiece in Four Colors. From Drawings by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Washington DC: National Geographic Society.

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"Nueva maravilla natural: Iguazú Argentina." Retrieved December 22, 2013.

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Perry S. and L. Rose. (1994). “Begging and Transfer of Coati Meat by White-faced Capuchin Monkeys, Cebus capucinus. Primates 35(4):409-415. Retrieved December 22, 2013.

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wild South American Coati (Nasua nasua)

Variable coloring of coati coats includes orange-red.
Ihla Anchieta, Ubatuba, State of São Paulo, Brazil
Ihla Anchieta, Ubatuba, State of São Paulo, Brazil
the end, which is also the beginning
the end, which is also the beginning

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Brazil Watercolor Map
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Nasua nasua as snake deterrent: photo by wildlife photographer François Gohier.

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Photo Jigsaw Puzzle: Nasua nasua eating rattlesnake it had killed.

Brazilian weasel: a common name for Nasua nasua:

original woodcut illustration by Thomas Bewick (c. August 11, 1753 – November 8, 1828)
Photo Mug: Brazilian weasel (Nasua nasua)

Iguazu Waterfalls and Rainbow: black t-shirt

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 09/30/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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