Osito

the

Kinkajou






Osito the Kinkajou says Hi!
Kinkajou
Osito and Miela are our two sweet kinkajous.

Kinkajou

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.

Adult Kinkajou

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.

Adult KinkajouEven 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.

Kinkajou

Names

Because 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:Kinkajou
(If you happen to know of any other names for kinkajou in other languages, PLEASE let me know!)

Statistics

SubSpecies

Some 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 chiriquensis - Gray Kinkajou from Costa Rica

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.


Potos flavus meridensis? - Venezuelan Kinkajou

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".

Potos flavus meridensis? - Venezuelan Kinkajous

(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!)


Description

Kinkajou hanging by its prehensile tail The 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.

Kinkajou

Kinkajou's foot 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.


Kinkajou with scent glands visible around mouth 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.

Behavior

Being 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 Habitat

Kinakjous 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.

Diet

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

Kinkajou hanging by its prehesile tail 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.


Kinkajou hanging by its prehesile tail 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 - Kinkajou tongue just after yawning 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.


Quicktime movie of a kinkajou showing its 6 inch tongue

Sexual Maturity and Breeding

The 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 Maternity

The 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.

Developmental Events

(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.

3 week old baby Kinkajou
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.

8 week old baby Kinkajou
An 8 week old Kinkajou

Lifespan

Kinkajous 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.

Status

The 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 Captivity

Kinkajou Kinkajous 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.

Kinkajou-Raising Tips

Here are a number of tips that that work for me:

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 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:

If you know of any other kinkajous in Tennessee, please let me know!

Osito terrorizing Eiki the Macaw
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
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
Miela investigating the bathroom

Miela investigating the bathroom
Miela investigating the bathroom

Miela investigating the bathroom
Miela investigating the bathroom

Getting Your Own Kinkajou

Because 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.

Resources

If 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:

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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:

Procyonid_Resources.doc
(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!


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