Animal Spotlight: Ringtails, Ringtails, Everywhere!

What is a ringtail? While some call them cats, they are actually in the raccoon family. Many visitors see them and immediately believe they’re a lemur. (King Julian!) While they look similar, they are quite different, as lemurs are primates and do not live in North America. 

Ringtails are part of a Species Survival Plan (SSP) and their population in human care is closely monitored to recommend the best genetic pairs for mating. While they are not endangered, it is important to sustain their species to learn more about them and protect them for future generations. 

Over the last 7 years, we have had four ringtail litters at ZooAmerica, with the most recent in 2018. The “Purple” Litter includes parents Rambo and Violet and 4 female kits: Amethyst, Periwinkle, Lilac and Lavender. This was a record litter for the SSP, with most litters having 2-3 kits. While we are always sad to see the babies move on to other zoos, they often will not get along with their parents or siblings once they are mature. Many move on to breed at other zoos or be companion animals and continue to educate the public about their unfamiliar species. 

In 2019, Periwinkle and Amethyst moved together to the Oklahoma City Zoo. In May 2021, Violet and her daughter, Lilac, moved together to Hutchinson Zoo in Kansas. Why would we move the mother? Now that she had 5 kits (a previous kit in 2017), her genetics were becoming overrepresented in the population. She and her daughter moved together because they got along well and will be companion animals for each other in Kansas. The last kit to move was Lavender in August 2021 to Lehigh Valley Zoo. We are thrilled that she remains close-by so we can easily visit, plus she will now be a companion for half-brother, Kringle, who was born at ZooAmerica in 2014. 

Is your head spinning from all those ringtail moves? Currently, we have Rambo and Reba in their nocturnal habitat in the Great Southwest area. Reba came to us in early 2021 from the Little Rock Zoo in Arkansas. It is unlikely they will create more ringtails, as they both are getting older. For now, we will be happy for them to spend their golden years together at ZooAmerica!