Osito and Miela are our two sweet kinkajous.
Kinkajous (Potos flavus) are nocturnal mammals native to the lowland rainforests of Central and South America. Their habitats range from eastern and southern Mexico through Belize and Costa Rica in Central America and down as far south as Ecuador and southern Brazil in South America.
To many people, kinkajous look like a cross between a bear cub in the face, an otter in the body, and a monkey with its long tail, with the curiosity of a raccoon, but they can have the playful personality to match all four, although they are usually often incredibly sweet and docile.
Even though they have prehensile tails and sometimes look and act like monkeys, kinkajous are actually members of the Procyonid family and are related to their bearlike cousins - raccoons, coatimundis, ringtailed cats, cacomistles, olingos, red pandas and panda bears.
NamesBecause they are nocturnal, kinkajous are sometimes called "Nightwalkers", but because of their honey colored fur and their love of honey, they are more often known as "Honeybears". (I call Osito our "living teddy bear"!) Kinkajous are also known by a variety of other names in local, regional and other languages:
Latin: Potus Flavus
Mandarin Chinese: mi xiong
Polish: Kinka¿u, wik³awiec, chwytacz
Dutch: Rolstaartbeer, Kinkajoe
Danish: snohalebjørn, honnigbjørn
Norwegian: viklebjørn, honningbjørn, gripehalebjørn, snohalebjørn
Swedish: veckelbjörn, kinkaju, gripsvansbjörn
Portugeuse: kinkajú, jupará, macaco-de-noite
Esperanto: kinkajuo, rul-vosta urso
Italian: cercoletto giallo
Spanish: mico leon, mico de noche, martucha
Mexico: marta, martucha, tancho, oso mielero, godoy, mico de noche
Honduras: micoleón, guatuza
Belize: nightwalker, martilla
Nicaragua: mico de noche, cuyusa, cuyu[s] (Matagalpa region)
Costa Rica: martilla
Panama: cusumbi, mico de noche, gato del noche, guiso
French Guiana: singe de nuit
Venezuela: cuchicuchi, pui-pui, mono de noche
Columbia: perro de monte, oso mielero, micoleón, leoncillo, leoncito, cuchicuchi
Ecuador: martica, tutamono, chuche, cuchicuchi, cusumbo
Bolivia: mono michi
Peru: chosna, martucha, chuchumli
Brazil: jupará, macaco-de-noite
Warao: simo anahorotu, simo anajorotu
(If you happen to know of any other names for kinkajou in other languages, PLEASE let me know!)
Lifespan: 20 to 24 years
Adult Weight Range: 3 to 8 pounds
Adult Diet: Fruits, honey, eggs
Puberty: Males: 1.5 years (18 months), Females: 2.5 years (30 months)
Breeding Season: Fall
Gestation: 98 to 120 days
Number of Young: 1 (occasionally 2)
Average Body Temp: 100° to 101.5°F (38.3°C)
Resting Body Temp: 98°F (36.7°C)
Vaccines Recommended: canine distemper, feline leukopenia, rabies not necessary
SubSpeciesSome people talk about the "two varieties" of kinkajous - the "large" Central American variety and the "small" South American variety. However, there are actually fourteen different subspecies of kinkajous (Potos flavus), characterized by location and identified by a range of variations in size, fur length, and color:
Kinkajous - Potos flavus (East Mexico-South Brazil)
- Potus flavus arborensis (Costa Rica)
- Potos flavus aztecus (Veracruz, Mexico)
- Potos flavus boothi (N Chiapas, Mexico)
- Potos flavus campechensis (Yucatan, Mexico-Nicaragua)
- Potos flavus chapadensis (Mato Grosso, Brazil)
- Potus flavus chiriquensis (Panama, Belize, Costa Rica)
- Potos flavus dugesii (S Oaxaca, S Chiapas, Mexico)
- Potos flavus flavus (Guyana, Amazonas, Brazil, Venezuela)
- Potos flavus guerrerensis (SE Guerrero, SW Oaxaca)
- Potos flavus isthmicus (Canal Zone, Panama)
- Potus flavus megalotus (Ecuador, Colombia, Panama)
- Potos flavus meridensis (Venezuela)
- Potos flavus modestus (SW Ecuador, NW Peru)
- Potos flavus nocturna (?)
Here is a unique photo of a gray Costa Rican kinkajou (Potus flavus chiriquensis) owned by Bea and Bob Kable in Costa Rica. Notice the gray color of the fur, the white fingers, and white tip of the tail. Other photos show that these kinkajous have a dark gray stripe down their backs, and long fingers that look much like a raccoon's fingers. Apparently these rare gray kinkajous are also found in nearby Panama.
Above is a photo of a Venezuelan kinkajou (Potos flavus meridensis?) owned by Marco Riboldi in Venezuela. Below is his friend holding her larger male "Pepito" who is kissing Marco's smaller female "Pitagora".
(If you happen to know the specific descriptions for the various subspecies of kinkajous or own a kinkajou that you are definitely certain of its country of origin, PLEASE let me know, as I am trying to find specific descriptions and photos for each subspecies!)
DescriptionThe larger varieties of kinkajous can reach a weight of up to 8 pounds, and attain a body length of about 25 inches, with a tail which can grow to a length of 18 to 20 inches. Kinkajous have fully prehensile grasping tails, which can be used like an extra "hand" when climbing. The tail can be almost as long as the body (up to 45 cm), and is also used for balance when moving from one tree limb to another. If you look very carefully at a kinkajou's tail in the proper light, you can sometimes see a series of faint dark rings on their tails, much like their cousins, the raccoons and coatimundis and ringtails, also have on their tails.
Like their cousins the ringtails, kinkajous can turn their hind feet backwards, so that the clawed toes can be used when descending head-first. Like their cousins the raccoons, kinkajous' front paws are very sensitive and the palms are bare-skinned. They often dip their front paws in water or small openings and then lick the food or juice off their paws much like raccoons do.
Kinkajous have an excellent sense of touch and smell. Vision is another matter. Kinkajous' vision is poor - They can't see color or can't sense differences in color, which makes their vision less useful for spotting predators, so kinkajous rely primarily on their highly developed senses of touch and smell. Kinkajous communicate with each other by scent-marking around their home range and travel routes. Scent glands are located in bare areas on either side of the face, at the corner of the mouth, on the throat, and on the abdomen. They also have a wide range of signal calls, from soft chitters to barks and shrill quavering screams.
BehaviorBeing nocturnal, kinkajous are primarily active at night, with peak activity between about 7:00 PM and midnight, and again an hour before dawn. During the light of day, they sleep in tree hollows or in shaded tangles of leaves, and avoid direct sunlight. Being arboreal (tree dwelling), kinkajous live in the canopies of the rainforest jungle, and seldom, if ever, come down to the jungle floor.
Natural HabitatKinakjous live in warm humid lowland rainforests of Central and South America where temperatures range from the upper 70s to 100 degrees. Kinkajous in southeast Mexico and Central America live in the lowlands rainforests at elevations of not higher than 2200 meters (about 7217 feet) above sealevel. Other references show kinkajous living in the lowland rainforests of Central and South America at elevations not higher than 1600 meters (5250 feet) in elevation, where temperatures range from the upper 70s to 100 degrees.
Basic Diet: Bananas, grapes, mangoes, melons, eggs, dry monkey chow
Treats: Honey, Fig Newtons, Fruit Loops, marshmellows, gummi bears
Avoid: Strawberries, chocolate, caffeine, citric fruits, dairy products
Even though Kinkajous have 36 sharp teeth and are considered carnivores, they are primarily frugivorous (fruit-eaters), subsisting predominantly on fruit. They particularly like to eat figs, grapes, bananas, melons, apples, mangos, sapodilla, and the delicious Ecuadorian cherimoya.
Kinkajous drink water that has pooled in tree crotches and on leaves, but fruit is an important source of fluid - when eating, they will turn on their side or back, or even lie or hang upside down so as not to lose any of the juice. Since fruits are seasonal, and not always readily available, kinkajous also eat berries, bark, leaves, frogs, insects, honey, avocados, bird eggs and sometimes even roosting birds. (Many kinkajous do not like lemons, very citric oranges or strawberries, and there is some evidence that some kinkajous might be allergic to strawberries.) Kinkajous also should not have dairy products, as they are lactose intolerant, and dairy products can make them very sick.
Kinkajous are also important pollinators and seed dispersers in the rainforest - an ecological role which is filled by no other carnivore. The kinkajou has a very long tongue (up to 6 inches or 20 cm) which is quite flexible and which is often used to extract nectar from flowers. As the kinkajou feeds, pollen adheres to its face and is subsequently deposited on other plants as the animal moves from blossom to blossom in the jungle canopy.
Sexual Maturity and BreedingThe kinkajou is sexually mature at 18 to 30 months. Male kinkajous reach sexual maturity at about 1.5 years (about 18 months), females in 2.5 years (about 30 months). The female kinkajou is in season approximately every three months.
In the wild, kinkajous usually avoid each other except when mating. The mating ritual comprises of the male sniffing and nipping at the female's lower jaw and throat. He then stimulates her by rubbing her sides with the insides of his wrists where he has an enlarged, protruding bone. The female also has this bone but on the male it is not covered with fur.
Gestation and MaternityThe female kinkajou goes into heat approximately once every third month and will give birth to only one or two cubs per year. The gestation of the kinkajou ranges from three to four months and usually only one cub is born at a time. In the wild, kinkajous usually give birth between April and December.
Captive kinkajous can give birth throughout most of the year, to usually one cub and occasionally two. Gestation lasts from 98 to 120 days (usually between 112 and 118 days). The baby kinkajou cub is born in a dark den with its eyes and ears closed, and with grayish hair and a bare underside. Generally a single offspring is produced, but occasionally twins do occur.
- Birth: eyes and ears closed
- 1 week: defecation without stimulation
- 2 weeks: eyes open, prehensile tail reflex
- 5 weeks: ability to walk
- 7 weeks: prehensile tail functional
- 12 weeks: begin taking solid food
- 22 weeks: adult pelage
(Source: A.Z.A. Infant Diet Notebook, Bathia and Desai, 1973; Clift, 1967)
Within two to six weeks, both the eyes and ears open, and in another three to six weeks, the kinkajou cub's tail becomes prehensile at between the ages of five to twelve weeks.
A 3 week old kinkajou
The mother kinkajou is very protective of her infant and in times of danger, carries the infant upside down just below her chest to protect it. When clinging to a branch with all four limbs and tail, the infant is therefore completely protected. The nursing period usually lasts between 3 to 5 months. Juveniles increase their mass by 12 times in the first six months following birth. Kinkajou offspring generally mature once they reach a year and a half to over two years of age.
An 8 week old Kinkajou
LifespanKinkajous have an average life span of approximately 23 to 24 years, with some living up to 29 or more years, and there is even a report of one at the Honolulu zoo that has lived over 39 years. Enemies of the kinkajou include the tayra, fox, jaguarundi, jaguar, ocelot, margay, and, of course, humans, as in their habitat, they are often hunted for their meat and fur.
StatusThe kinkajou's status in the wild is currently threatened, as kinkajou numbers are falling as a result of deforestation and fur hunting. As a result, taking kinkajous from the wild is highly discouraged, and kinkajous in captivity are relatively rare. Hopefully with captive breeding programs such as ours, we can help save this special animal and help propagate the species.
Pets in CaptivityKinkajous are beautiful animals and can make wonderful pets, since their personalities are often playful, yet docile and sweet. They are not destructive animals and have been known to be kept in the house without a cage. Kinkajous are generally quiet and docile, and they have no noticable odor. Because they are slow and languid, especially just after being wakened from a nap, they do not particularly like quick sudden movements. I have found them to be gentle and nonaggressive most of the time, although they can get wound up and become quite playful, and like to "dive bomb" and pounce on you from high places!
Although they are primarily arboreal and nocturnal in the wild, they will play on the ground in captivity, and if you spend a lot of time playing and socializing with them in the day, they will sleep well at night. However, be prepared for the fact that they may also want to play and explore much of the night, and a good sized cage with branches is usually the best night-time solution for them if you want to get any sleep!
Because kinkajous are native to the warm humid lowland rainforests of Central and South America where temperatures range from the upper 70s to 100 degrees, they need housing where the temperatures never drop below 70 degrees F. If you are planning on raising kinkajous, do not let the temperature of their environment drop below 70 degress F in your home.
Here are a number of tips that that work for me:
- Cage - A huge wrought-iron macaw cage might be a good size for a single kinkajou; However, at $600-$1000, they were a little out of my budget, and I needed room for two kinkajous. So instead, I used 2 dog kennel cages 3' wide x 4' deep x 3' high for about $100 each, and assembled them one on top of the other, and left out the top to the bottom cage, and the bottom of the top cage, creating a cage that is 3' wide x 4' deep x 6' tall! This is tall enough to stand up in and put in a small sapling for them to climb around on, and creates two doors - one in the lower front, and one in upper back. This also gives you two plastic slide-out trays that you can swap out for holding newspaper under the bottom grill (which was originally the top panel of the bottom cage). I "sewed" the "seams" together between the two cage with hog rings (cost about $12 for the hog ring crimper tool and a bag of rings at the local co-op or hardware store).
- Food bowls - I have tried everything, but kinkajous are very active and tend to overturn their bowls, spilling food everywhere. I started using medium sized ceramic bowls that were heavier and more difficult to overturn. However, they now tip over even the heaviest large ceramic dog bowls. So now I place a medium sized ceramic bowl inside of a larger ceramic bowl (with a lip) and it seems to be more difficult to overturn.
- Water - I originally used the ceramic bowls (above) but the kinks would either overturn them, or soil the water with food or excrement, and it made quite an unhealthy mess for them and for cleaning the newspaper in the bottom of their cage. I switched to plastic water bottles on the side of the cage, but they soon punctured them. I finally changed to using two heavy glass water bottles with metal spiggots made for large parrots ($18 each). They work ok, and only need to be changed about every 2 days as the water stays clean inside the glass bottle. I also developed a large PVC pipe tube with screw-on top and metal "hog-nipple" spiggot (available from co-op) and attached to the outside of the cage with metal bands. This can hold about a gallon or more water, depending on how large and long the PVC pipe you use is. But somehow it leaks and does not work well at this time.
- Food - My kinkajous eat about 100 lbs of bananas a month, along with a variety of other assorted fruits, which can quickly get very expensive. I decided to visit a number of local grocery stores and farmer's markets, befriended the produce managers and asked for damaged food that they were going to throw out anyway, and I now have a schedule for collecting boxes of damaged or discarded "salvage" produce from a variety of stores each week. This is produce that is bruised, broken or over ripe, and gives us a wide variety of exotic fruits that we would rarely have the luxury of buying on a regular basis due to its higher price (mangoes, papayas, cherimoyas, pomegranets, etc.)
- Enrichment Toys - My kinkajous don't seem too interested in many of the commercial dog toys I have bought them. There is one dog toy that when rolled, makes animal sounds (groans, oinks, etc), and they seem to enjoy rolling that around for a while. However, their favorite toys seem to be small plastic empty "Baby Wipes" boxes or empty plastic butter tubs with a hole cut in the top for them to reach in and get cereal and other treats. This seems keep their minds occupied for enrichment while they try to get to their treats.
- Bathing - Kinkajous are relatively pretty clean by themselves (especially our female), but from time to time, I like to give them a bath or a quick warm shower. They occasionally will "tolerate" it some, while other times they don't seem to like it much and squirm around an awful lot! If you want to use shampoo, use something very gentle - some folks use Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo, but kinkajous' skin dries out very easily, and after every bath, they itch and scratch like crazy, so several kinkajou owners (including us) prefer to use Head & Shoulders for dry hair, and the kinks don't seem to scratch as much afterwards.
- Litter training - I have had no luck whatesoever in getting my kinkajous litter trained, and I do not know of anyone who has had much luck. Generally, they climb to a high place and "let go"; However, they seem to get into a habit of going in the same locations, so after a while, you learn where to place mats to catch the droppings. I also use a piece of vinyl flooring under their cage for easier cleanup.
- Cage cleaning tip - To make cage cleanup easier, spray edible cooking "Pam" on the sides and bottom of cage so droppings don't stick to the cage. Works well for parrots' cages as well.
- Treats and supplies - www.our-pets.net/primatestorefor Banana flavored monkey bisquits, treats, toys and supplies for primates that work well for kinkajous
Osito and Miela
Osito, was born on August 31, 1999, and as of today, he is old. Osito has thick, chocolate brown fur and weighs about 8 lbs. Osito is a very sweet, but playful, kinkajou. His full name, "Osito de Miel", means "Little Honey Bear" in Spanish, or "Uchila Anaigu" in Quechua, the Incan language of South America.
My female kinkajou Miela was born sometime around November of 1999, so she is approximately old. Miela is very petite at only about 4 lbs, and she has very short tannish brown fur and a short, cute little face. "Miela" is the femine form of the Spanish word for "Honey" ("miel"), and she is a very shy, but sweet kinkajou, so she lives up to her name.
Osito wrestling Dan's thumb
Osito and Miela are two of only about 13 kinkajous that we know of in the state of Tennessee, with the others being:
- Osito's parents Gabby and Gizmo at Sharolyn Snyder's Paradise Ranch just north of Nashville
- Honey who is a female kinkajou from Mike Smith's Jack-A-Roos in Illinois who now lives with a friend here in Nashville
- Mala, a female kinkajou at the Nashville Grassmere Zoo ('Mala' is short for "Guatemala", even though 'mala' is also the feminine form of the Spanish word "bad", which she is not!)
- 2 kinkajous at the Memphis Zoo
- another breeder near Memphis who has 5 kinkajous
- and Carson the kinkajou at the Warner Park Zoo in Chattanooga
If you know of any other kinkajous in Tennessee, please let me know!
Osito terrorizing Eiki the Macaw
Osito likes to eat cookies, figs, bananas, pineapple, mandarin oranges, cherimoya, and other sweet fruits which he licks with his 6 inch long tongue.
Osito eating a cookie
Osito eating a cookie
Osito eating a cookie
Miela investigating the bathroom
Miela investigating the bathroom
Miela investigating the bathroom
Miela investigating the bathroom
Miela investigating the bathroom
Getting Your Own KinkajouBecause kinkajous are so cute to look at, people often fall in love with them and want to get one as a pet. If you are interested in buying your own kinkajou, I would highly recommend doing some serious research first on their diet, care and feeding, vet and health concerns, temperament, and laws for your area. Because kinkajous are on the threatened species lists, because there are so few of them available, because they are not prolific breeders, and therefore are often hard to find, there is a large demand for a small supply of kinkajous. Consequently, you often need to try to locate several breeders first, then add yourself to their waiting lists, while you are researching kinkajous and saving up your money - as kinkajous can often cost from $1800-$2900 each, IF you can find one for sale.
ResourcesIf you are interested in getting your own kinkajou or just learning more about them, you should join these free discussion lists so you can ask questions directly to other kinkajou owners and breeders:
- To subscribe: Kinkajousfirstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like more information on these interesting family of animals, here is an extensive list of books, videos and other resources I have compiled on kinkajous, raccoons, coatimundis, ringtails, cacomistles, and olingos in Word document format:
(Click to view, or shift and right-click on link to download 100K Word document)
Beautiful Kinkajou print
(Click to view, or shift and right-click on link to download 60K .jpg)
See more about the kinkajou in a great presentation at National Geographic!
Check out the new childrens book on Peepers and Friends!