Tayra, Greyheaded Tayra

(Eira barbara)


Tayra, Greyheaded Tayra IUCN LEAST CONCERN (LC)


Facts about this animal

The tayra is a relatively large marten species, reaching a head-body length of 56-68 cm, a tail length of 37-47 cm, and a body weight of 2.5-5 kg. Adult males are 30% larger than females and have a well visible scrotum. Females have four teats.


The tayra has a long tail clothed in black hair, which is slightly longer than elsewhere on the body, and muscular legs with naked soles and non-retractile claws.


The head is broad and flattened on top,with a slightly pointed muzzle, the neck is long and muscular, the eyes are dark and large, the ears are short and rounded, the nose pad is black.


The fur is short and coarse, with soft, brown underfur. Back, legs, feet, and tail are dark brown to black, contrasting sharply with head and neck, which usually are grizzled tan, greyish brown, or pale yellow.


The tayra is a solitary animal, diurnal with activity peaks at dawn and dusk. It is a good climber and forages on the ground as well as in the canopy.


The gestation period lasts for 63-67 days. Differently from many other mustelids, there is no delayed implantation of the embryo. A litter consists of 1 to 3 cubs, twins being most common. The cubs weigh about 100 g at birth. They are born completely haired, with eyes and ears closed. They will stay in the den for about 50 days, and then travel with their mother for another 150-250 days.


The tayra feeds on fruit, invertebrates, live vertebrates and carrion.

Did you know?
That tayras are able to kill prey animals that are larger than themselves? In Misiones tayras have been observed to capture brockets (Mazama nana) which they chased for hours and started eating them while the animal was still alive. In the canopy, tayras catch squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sp.), tamarins (Saguinus sp.), and squirrels (Sciurus sp.) and large lizards. Also arthropodes constitute a substantial part of their diet.


Name (Scientific) Eira barbara
Name (English) Tayra, Greyheaded Tayra
Name (French) Tayra, Martre à tête grise
Name (German) Tayra
Name (Spanish) Hurón mayor
Local names Cabeza de viejo, Eirá, Gato cutarra, Gato negro, Irará, Manco, Perico ligero, Tayra, Tejón, Tolomuco, Ucati, Ulama, Viejo de monte
CITES Status Appendix III (Honduras and Austria)
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Central and South America: Northern Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Southern Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad, Venezuela
Habitat Tropical forests
Wild population Unknown, but decreasing (Red List IUCN 2011)
Zoo population 40 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Tayra, Greyheaded Tayra


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Alex Sliwa

Why do zoos keep this animal

The Tayra is not a threatened species, and is rather unfrequently kept by zoos outside the range states. The zoos keep it primarily for educational reasons, as an example of a terrestrial neotropical mustelid species, and as an ambassador for its threatened habitat, the tropical forests of Meso- and South America. They are particularly suitable for this purpose as they are active during the regular opening ours of the zoo.


In the species' range, tayras are often kept by private persons, and zoos may keep animals for animal welfare resons as they may have to care for abandoned or confiscated pets.