About the Potto
Pottos are small and compact with brown woolly coats. They have round heads, small ears and golden brown protuberant eyes. They’re solitary and nocturnal creatures, spending their days sleeping high in trees and nights hunting for food (mostly fruit). If threatened, pottos can freeze in place for hours.
Small and compact, pottos have a dense, woolly coat in various shades of brown; their underside is usually lighter than their back. The potto’s head is round, with small ears and golden brown protuberant eyes. The potto’s strong jaws enable it to eat lumps of dried gum that are too tough for other tree-dwellers. It has a powerful bite and its saliva contains compounds that cause a wound to become inflamed.
Pottos' feet are well adapted to clasping branches. Their thumbs and big toes are oriented at almost a 180-degree angle to their other fingers, while the first (index) finger is reduced in size to a small stub. Consequently, the potto’s hands and feet have the shape of a clamp. The second toe on the foot has a claw used in grooming, but all of the other digits have flattened nails as in humans. Because pottos have areas for blood storage in their hands and feet, they can hold on to branches for extended periods of time without experiencing muscle fatigue.
Weight: 1 to 1.5 kilograms (2 to 3 pounds)
Length: body: 30 to 40 centimeters (11 to 16 inches); tail: 3 to 10 centimeters (1 to 4 inches)
Varies seasonally but includes mainly fruit, gum from trees, insects and snails.
Mating and Reproduction:
As part of their courting rituals, which are frequently performed face-to-face while hanging upside down from a branch, pottos often meet for bouts of mutual grooming. This consists of licking, combing fur with their grooming claw and teeth, and anointing with the scent glands. Gestation is 170 to 190 days; typically, births are of a single young, but twins are known to occur. At age 4 to 5 months, offspring are weaned; at about 6 months, males leave the mother’s home. Pottos reach sexual maturity at about 18 months.
Pottos are primarily solitary and nocturnal animals, with the exception of mothers with their young. The potto moves slowly and carefully, always gripping a branch with at least two limbs. They mark their territories with urine and glandular secretions. Same-sex intruders are vehemently guarded against, although a male’s territory generally overlaps with that of two or more females. Females have been known to donate part of their territories to their daughters. If threatened, a potto will hide its face and "neck-butt" its opponent using sharp vertebrae in its neck. Sometimes a potto will "freeze" in defense, remaining this way for hours.
The tropical forest of the West African coast from Guinea to Congo and from Gabon to West Kenya
Wild: about 10 years
Captive: up to 30 years
One population of chimpanzees living in Mont Assirik, Senegal, was observed to eat pottos, taking them from their sleeping places during the day. However, this behavior has not been observed in chimps elsewhere. Pottos are also known to be hunted by humans as a source of food.
You Can Find This Animal in the Tropical Forest
In some parts of Africa, the potto is known as “Softly-softly” because of the way it moves without a sound.