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Kinkajous live in the tropical forests of Central and South America, where they spend most of their time in the trees. They are able to turn their feet backwards to run easily in either direction along branches or up and down trunks. The kinkajou also has a prehensile (gripping) tail that it uses much like another arm. Kinkajous often hang from this incredible tail, which also aids their balance and serves as a cozy blanket while the animal sleeps high in the canopy.
Though many of its features and traits sound like those of a primate, the kinkajou is actually related to the raccoon.
Kinkajous are sometimes called honey bears because they raid bees’ nests. They use their long, skinny tongues to slurp honey from a hive, and also to remove insects like termites from their nests. Kinkajous also eat fruit and small mammals, which they snare with their nimble front paws and sharp claws. They roam and eat at night, and return each morning to sleep in previously used tree holes.
Kinkajous form treetop groups and share social interactions such as reciprocal grooming. They are vocal animals—though seldom seen, they are often heard screeching and barking in the tropical forest canopy.
Female kinkajous give birth to one offspring in spring or summer. The baby is born with its eyes shut and cannot see for a month. It develops quickly, however, and by the end of the second month, it is already able to hang upside down from its tail.
By Marla Lise
Scientific Name: Potos flavus
Kinkajous are also known as honey bears – sharing their name with the sun bear. They are often mistaken for ferrets or monkeys, and have the same bare hands and feet and prehensile tails that monkeys do – but these little honey-colored, honey-loving critters are actually related to red pandas and raccoons.
Kinkajous are found in most rainforest areas of South America. They are nocturnal and arboreal, meaning that they come out at night and spend most of their waking hours up in trees.
Distribution & Status
Behavior & Ecology
|Range: Neotropical; southern Mexico to Bolivia.
Habitat: Inhabits closed canopy forests. Prefer undisturbed sites in mature stages of development.
IUCN Status: Least Concern (2015 assessment). Widely distributed and adaptable to a degree of human land-use change; no evidence of significant population declines.
CITES Appendix: Apprendix III for Honduras
Other Designations: Mexican Red List species; given special protection.
Population in Wild: No published estimates of population size; numbers are likely decreasing.
|Locomotion: Jump and climb through the forest canopy. Highly adept and agile, the tail is often used to secure and balance the body when crossing gaps between supports.
Activity Cycle: Nocturnal; kinkajou sleep during the day and search for food at night. Nightly forays typically last for 8-11 hours and end prior to dawn.
Social Groups: Most often solitary, kinkajou are known to associate in small groups. Typical groups are composed of 1 female, her offspring, and 1-2 adult males.
Diet: Frugivores; fruit makes up 90% of the kinkajous’ diet. Flowers, leaves, honey, nectar, and insects are also eaten.
Reproduction & Development
|Sexual Maturity: 1.5-2.2 yrs
Gestation: 98-120 days
Litter Size: 1 most typically; rarely 2
Interbirth Interval: c. 1 yr
Birth Weight: 150-200 g (0.33-0.44 lb)
Age at Weaning: c. 4 months
Longevity: In managed care, oldest individuals > 30 years
About This Fact Sheet
How to cite: Kinkajou (Potos flavus) Fact Sheet. c2015-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY MMM DD]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ kinkajou.
(note: replace YYYY MMM DD with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Sep 15)
Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed.
The kinkajou (/ˈkɪŋkədʒuː/ KING-kə-joo; Potos flavus) is a tropical rainforest mammal of the family Procyonidae related to olingos, coatis, raccoons, and the ringtail and cacomistle.
The common name “kinkajou” derives from French: quincajou, based on the Algonquian name for the wolverine. It is similar to the Ojibwe word kwi·nkwaʔa·ke
A. M. Husson, of the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie (Leiden), discussed the rather complicated nomenclature of the kinkajou in The Mammals of Suriname (1978).
A 2007 phylogenetic study showed that kinkajous form a basal lineage sister to the rest of Procyonidae. They diverged 21.6–24 mya. Two clades, one leading to Bassaricyon (olingos and the olinguito) plus Nasua (coatis), and one leading to Bassariscus (the ring-tailed coati and the cacomistle) plus Procyon (racoons), appeared subsequently and radiated during the Miocene ().
The kinkajou has a round head, large eyes, a short pointed snout, short limbs and a long prehensile tail. The total head-and-body length (including the tail) is between 82 to 133 cm (32 to 52 in), and the tail measures 39 to 57 cm (15 to 22 in). The weight ranges from 1.4 to 4.6 kg (3.1 to 10.1 lb).