First thing in the morning at the zoo, the animals are given their breakfast. Kwaxi, the raccoon, gets her food as well.
In her enclosure there is a pool, a house and lots of plants and branches. When I enter, she is always sleeping. Raccoons are more active during the night.
Kwaxi is used to the zoo´s schedule, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like to sleep a bit more in the morning or taking naps during the day. When all the other animals are ready and awake, she is still sleeping on her favourite spot: a branch that has the perfect size and form preventing her to fall down. She even sleeps there when it rains and doesn´t care about getting soaked.
Where does the name raccoon come from?
In different languages the name raccoon refers to taking everything with their hands. In English raccoon means “the one who rubs and scrubs with his hands”. In Spanish it is “the one who takes everything in his hands”.
While other animals use sound or smell to find food, raccoons rely on their sense of touch to locate it. Their front paws contain an exceptional amount of sensory receptors and this allows them to differentiate between objects without seeing them, which is important when feeding at night.
In some other languages, the name refers to their washing habits. For example in Dutch or German they are called “washing bears”. They are not exactly washing their food, but wetting their paws to stimulate the nerve endings. Water to them is like light to human´s eyes; it gives them more sensory information to work with.
How does Kwaxi look like?
Kwaxi has, like all raccoons, a black mask around her eyes. This helps them to see clearly. The dark colour absorbs the incoming light.
She has a big ringed tail, a thick greyish fur that keeps her warm in the winter and sharp teeth that are capable of cracking nuts.
Near the winter she gets more food to gain some wait and prepare her for the cold season.
When I bring her food, Kwaxi opens an eye and starts to stretch. Scattering the food in her enclosure gives her more time to find it and keeps her busy.
She is omnivorous, that means that she eats everything. She gets fruit, vegetables, eggs, meat, mealworms and pellets. The sweetest fruit, like grapes, mango and banana are her favourites. In summer she also likes to eat watermelon and when it gets really hot she gets her fruit ice creams. With this frozen treat she keeps busy for a while.
She is not very fond of vegetables, but she will eat sweet potato if we give it to her. She gets the proteins that she needs from the meat, mealworms, nuts and eggs that we give her.
Enrichment is very important for her. It stimulates her mind and she will not get bored during the day. She gets a special enrichment, because we want her to use her intelligence and her hands. I often hide her food in the swimming pool to stimulate her natural “washing” behaviour.
What other things does a raccoon do during the day?
As I already mentioned, Kwaxi spends a lot of time sleeping on her branch. Only if we are around or inside her enclosure, she wakes up and starts to follow us. She is very curious and when we have a bucket or a plastic sack, she always looks what is inside.
When we clean her swimming pool, she loves to sit inside it and play with the clean water we just poured in, making it dirty again.
At the time the zoos closes and everyone goes home, Kwaxi still sleeps. Maybe she raises her head to watch you go, but she will not move. At night she is probably more active, but we never get to see it.