Coatis move in to the Melbourne Zoo

Jan. 24, 2012 at 8:22 AM ET

Meagan Thomas / Melbourne Zoo /

A recently arrived group of coatis (a lesser known raccoon-like animal) have settled so comfortably into the Melbourne Zoo that they have already produced three litters, with a total of 21 kittens, the zoo reports.

Nine of the kittens, who have been secluded in nest boxes for the first weeks of their lives, got a full checkup from zoo veterinarian Dr. Helen McCracken, including vaccinations and microchips to track their growth. 

Meagan Thomas / Melbourne Zoo /

There are four adult females and one male in the breeding group, selected to create genetic diversity.

Meagan Thomas / Melbourne Zoo /

Coatis are part of the Raccoon family and are native to the Americas. They are omnivores, eating insects, fruits, vegetation, and meat and are very skilled climbers, known for descending trees head-first. Their long tails are used as balancing rods to assist when they're climbing. multimedia producer Mish Whalen gazes at dozens of puppies, kittens and other adorable animals every day but has never seen a coati.