Agouti

Dasyprocta spp.

Agoutis are native to southern Mexico, the West Indies, and parts of Central and South America. They are found in a wide range of habitats, including forests, open savannas, and agricultural fields. Closely related to guinea pigs, agoutis are primarily herbivorous but are known to eat meat when food is limited. Agoutis can reach 2 feet in length, weigh close to 9 pounds, and live 17 years in captivity. Although sometimes kept as pets, agoutis are also harvested for their meat and skin throughout most of their native range. Because of their large size and docile nature, they have also been used in medical research.

Did You Know?

Agouties can also emit a very strong odor.

Sustainability

Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Significant Cause for Concern

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an organization that tracks the status of wildlife populations, recognizes 11 species of agouti. Three of these species have stable populations, four others are decreasing and at risk of extinction, and the status of the other four species is unknown. Agoutis are hunted and harvested throughout their native range, primarily for meat and fur. There is also evidence that they are captured and sold illegally for the pet trade. Agoutis breed in captivity, so capturing wild individuals for the pet trade isn’t necessary.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet agouti, ask for proof that it is captive-bred from domesticated animals. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable, USDA-licensed breeder to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal. This is especially important with agoutis because several wild populations are declining.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Some Cause for Concern

Agoutis feed on agricultural crops and cause substantial damage within their native range. Although there is little information on the invasive potential of agoutis in the U.S., if they did become invasive they would have the potential to negatively affect agriculture.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Agoutis are large, long-lived animals that require an owner who is committed to providing specialized care for the long term (up to 17 years). These animals require large, secure enclosures. Like most rodents, agoutis chew regularly to maintain their teeth. They must be monitored closely to prevent self-injury, and damage to their cages or household items. Agouties also emit a very strong odor.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring an agouti, make sure you can care for it for the long term (up to 17 years). Talk to your veterinarian about specific requirements for enclosures, cages, and substrates for your agouti to chew on.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Agoutis are not naturally aggressive, but they are strong and have very sharp teeth, and will bite when frightened. These bites can cause severe injuries. Agoutis may harbor bacterial or parasitic diseases infectious to humans and/or other animals. Wild agoutis are known to carry the virus that causes yellow fever, a potentially fatal disease. They also may carry the bacteria that cause leptospirosis, which can result in liver and kidney damage in humans.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before purchasing a non-traditional pet, ensure the animal was captive bred vs. wild caught. Be sure to ask if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
More about EcoHealth Alliance