Scientific Name Potos flavus
Conservation Status Least Concern
The kinkajou has dense, woolly fur which is coloured a golden brown with some animals displaying a grey-brown or dark brown coat. The dense fur protects them against the rain. It also helps them avoid bee stings when they forage for honey. The underbelly has orangish or yellow fur.
They have short legs with five fingers at the end which are clawed for climbing trees. There is some webbing between their fingers. The feet can turn backwards an adaptation which allows them to run up and down branches easily.
Their scent glands are located on the mouth, throat and belly which they use to mark their territory.
Head to body length ranges from 40-60cm (16-24in) long. Their weight can vary between 1.4-4.6kg (3-10lb).
They have a 13cm (5in) long tongue to help with feeding.
Their tail is as long as or longer than their head and body with an average measurement of between 40 and 60cm (16-24in). It is prehensile which means they can use it much like another hand. It also aids with balance when climbing.
In the wild a kinkajou will live for an average of 20 years. Some exceptional individuals in captivity will live to be 40 years old.
Kinkajous are omnivores. Much of their diet is fruit and nectar. This is supplemented with some eggs, insects and small animals. They have a fondness for honey, figs and nectar. When they eat nectar, they help to pollinate plants by smearing the pollen which has stuck to their face at the last flower on the next one. Their long tongue assists them in removing honey from bee hives.
The kinkajou is technically classed as a carnivore because of their canine teeth but meat is an insignificant part of their diet.
South and Central America is the native home of the kinkajou. Here they can be found throughout Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
They live in the rainforests, evergreen forest, gallery forest, dry forests and savanna. They prefer old growth forest but at times have made use of secondary forest successfully.
Breeding takes place year round but peaks in certain areas when fruit is abundant. A male will mate with several females. He will pursue her for several hours before she becomes receptive to mating. He is often followed by a subordinate male who will challenge him to mate with the female.
After a successful mating, it takes between 98 and 120 days for the young to be born. On a rare occasion twins, can be born. The birth takes place in a tree hollow where the infant is protected. At birth the eyes are closed. They will remain that way for the first month of life. As such the baby is left in the tree hollow while the mother goes foraging. She will also carry it in her mouth when climbing and hold it when resting.
Solid food is first tried at eight weeks old. It takes four months for them to gain their independence. They will not go out on their own till 18months old for male infants and 24 months for females. Sexual maturity is achieved at a similar time.
The Kinkajou is preyed upon by foxes, cats and humans who use their fur for saddles and wallets as well as eating their meat. They can also cause disturbance to coconut plantations.
This species is nocturnal as a means of avoiding predators. They carry out most of their activity in the hours between sunset and midnight. Their days are spent in a tree hollow or amongst leaves resting. They follow a similar route each night when moving through the forest to feed.
Their main method of communication is scent. They can also make calls similar to a human scream to communicate. Other calls include squeaks, barks and hisses.
Groups of kinkajous often consist of two males and a female with her young. They share a territory with one of the males taking on a dominant role. This group shares a territory and will often sleep together. They groom as the sun sets but will then go out on their own to feed.
Kinkajous are popular in several places as exotic pets.
They have developed the name “lion monkey” or micoleón in the local language in some areas where they are kept. They are also referred to as “honey bears.” In some areas, they are known by a Spanish term “la llorona” meaning “the crying woman” a reference to their vocalisation.
Top – By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada (Potos flavus) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Map – By Jürgen at nl.wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], from Wikimedia Commons