Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo has two new baby agoutis, named Steve and Sam. They were born last Saturday, the day of Zoo Boo, Zoo Director Scott Gregory said.
The agouti (ah GOO tee) is a rodent from the rain forests of Central and South America.
The babies, a male and female, came as a surprise. "We thought we had two female adults, but I guess not," Gregory said.
The babies were rejected by the mother, as sometimes happens with rodents, Gregory said. That’s why Zoo Curator Marge Bowen is bottle feeding them.
The agoutis won’t stay at the zoo long in any case, Gregory said. There would be too much danger of brother and sister attempting to breed. "We already have some interest from various facilities wanting them," he continued. The female is headed to an alligator farm in St. Augustine, Fla. It won’t be ’gator food, Gregory said, explaining the facility also has an agouti breeding program.
According to the San Diego Zoo website: "The agouti "looks a bit like a really large guinea pig. Its coarse hair is covered with an oily substance that acts like a raincoat. The hair is longest on its rump. The agouti has five toes on its front feet and three on the hind feet. It walks on its toes, not flat-footed like many rodents, giving the agouti a dainty look. Although it is hard to see it, the agouti does have a tail: it is very small, looking like a dark jelly bean stuck on the animal’s rump! ...
"Agoutis may play a vital role in the survival of Brazil nut trees and the people who depend on the trees in remote areas of South America. Brazil nuts bring in millions of dollars each year. Remember, agoutis are the only animals that can open the thick husk to allow the seeds to sprout. If the agouti population declines, it could have an effect on a rain forest’s health. Currently, some agouti subspecies are endangered because they are being hunted for food, the introduction of disease and pollutants, and the loss of their habitat."
This month the zoo is showing signs of preparing for the holidays, and some Christmas lights were being set up Wednesday. The zoo conducted a youth program throughout the month of October, hosted by the Great Bend Recreation Commission.
In other zoo news, Gregory said two young men are doing their Eagle Scout projects at the zoo. Bryce Divis is winterizing the tortoises’ home and Nathan Brungart is winterizing the Great Horned Owl home.