Scientific Name: Dasyprocta leporina cayana
Agoutis are nervous animals always on the lookout for danger.
Red-rumped agoutis play a key role in the complex ecosystem of the forests where they live. When agoutis find extra food, they will hide their treasure for later use by burying it. While their keen sense of smell enables them to locate the hidden cache at a later time, if the nuts aren’t found, a new tree may grow. In the Amazon rainforest, the agouti is the only species responsible for reseeding the forest with Brazil nuts, a valuable export, and ensuring the growth of a new generation of trees.
STATUS: The red-rumped agouti is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The population of red-rumped agoutis seems to be stable even though some of their habitats are slowly being destroyed by human interference. They are hunted by humans for pets or as meat, as well as by large mammals such as ocelots, jaguars, and coatimundis.
HABITAT: Their range extends from the northern tip of South America to the Amazon river basin and from the western borders of Venezuela and Brazil to the eastern coast of the continent. As long they have good ground cover, agoutis can live in a wide variety of habitats, but they prefer forests and areas with bodies of water and swamps. Red-rumped agoutis will rest in a burrow or hollow tree trunk where they are safe from predators. Moving their ranges seasonally based upon food availability, these creatures will spray their territory with urine to warn other agoutis to stay away.
DIET: Fallen fruit and the tender, inner kernels of nuts are the favorite foods of these terrestrial animals but they also eat leaves, roots and tubers, wood, bark, stems, seeds, grains, nectar, and flowers. Their sense of hearing is so strong that they can actually hear fruit hit the forest floor! Agoutis stand on their large hind feet and nibble food held in their forepaws.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Female red-rumped agoutis are larger than males. Weight ranges from about 6 to 13 pounds while the animals are approximately 19 to 25 inches long. Their fur is a speckled olive brown with a patch of long orange or red hairs on the rump. Agouti bellies are orange-brown with a white stripe down the center. The agouti has five toes on its front feet but only three on its hind feet and it walks on its toes. Their massive jaw muscles and constantly-growing incisors insure that they are able to open hard nut shells.
Red-rumped agoutis are fairly social and live in small family groups. It appears they mate for life. After a gestation period of 104 to 120 days, one to three precocial babies are born. Their ability to run and forage soon after birth increases their chances of survival.