Honey bear, Sugar bear, La llorona (the crying woman), Mico de noche, Martucha
The kinkajou (pronounced KINK-ah-joo) is also known as the honey bear. They are very small so are often mistaken for ferrets or monkeys. They are closely related to raccoons. They can turn their feet backwards in order to easily run in either direction up and down trunks or along branches. It also has a prehensile tail (a gripping tail) that it uses like another arm. Kinkajous will often hang from their tail, which also assists with balance and can serve as a blanket while the animal is sleeping high in the canopy.
Kinkajous live south and east of the Mexican Sierra Madres, through Central America to Bolivia to the east of the Andes, as well as in the Atlantic Forest in south eastern Brazil. They live within the canopy of a number of stages of forest, such as mature, disturbed, as well as secondary rainforest, and may also occur in deciduous forest, gallery forest, and sometimes plantations.
Habits and lifestyle
Kinkajous are strictly arboreal and nocturnal. They were earlier thought to be solitary, however, recent studies reveal a complex social system that is comparable to other arboreal and nocturnal species. Social groups usually consist of a female and two males but may include sub-adults and juveniles as well. Kinkajous sleep in their dens during the day, often in a hole or fork of a tree, and generally with members from their home group. When dusk comes, members of a group spend time socializing and allogrooming before separating to forage. A kinkajou will usually feed on its own, except when eating in large fruit trees, as here there is less competition among them because of the plentiful food supply. Whether in a small group or alone, kinkajous usually go the same route every night and usually keep to their own territory. They mark their territory using scent glands, which are at the corner of their mouth, their throat, and their abdomen.
Diet and nutrition
Kinkajous are primarily opportunistic frugivores, they mostly eat fruit, including melons, apples, bananas, figs, grapes, and mangos. They also eat nectar, berries, bark, leaves, frogs, insects, honey, birds and eggs. Most of the moisture that they need comes from their food, though they also drink water that has gathered on leaves or in nooks of trees.
Kinkajous are polygynandrous (promiscuous), with both males and females mating with multiple partners. Breeding takes place year-round. Gestation is 98-120 days. The size of a litter is usually one, sometimes two. After 2 to 6 weeks its eyes open and between 3 - 6 weeks the tail becomes prehensile. A mother is very protective of her young and she carries her baby on her belly everywhere she goes. However, after the baby is weaned she will park it in a nearby tree while feeding. The pup will be weaned when it is 8 months of age. A male reaches maturity at the age of 18 months and females at 2 - 3 years old.
Potential threats to this species include deforestation, capture to be sold as pets and hunting for its soft pelt and flavorful meat. Habitat destruction by humans has caused the population size and range of kinkajous to decrease. Most of the habitat destruction is probably due to deforestation.
The Kinkajou has a wide distribution range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC), but its numbers today are decreasing.
Being frugivores, kinkajous are active dispersers of seed. They are also important rainforest pollinators. When they drink nectar from within flowers, their faces get covered in pollen which is then spread to other plants.
Fun facts for kids
- Kinkajous are quite noisy with their hisses, barks and high-pitched squeaks. They bark and screech all around the forest, which gives them another nickname which is Spanish for the crying woman: la llorona.
- A kinkajou's hearing is keen enough to hear a snake’s movement.
- In Belize, “night walkers” is the name for kinkajous.
- The kinkajou’s scientific name ‘potos flavus’ means “golden drinker”.
- Kinkajous are also called “honey bear” since they sometimes raid beehives.
- The prehensile tail of kinkajous and binturongs is unique amongst mammalian carnivores.