The East African potto (Perodicticus ibeanus) is a nocturnal primate found in Central and East Africa. It is thought to be the sister species to the Central African potto, from which it diverged during the late Miocene, about 5.5 million years ago.
East African pottos have a similar appearance to other potto species. Pottos have long, slender bodies, large eyes, and small, round ears. They have woolly fur which is grey-brown in color. Pottos have strong limbs with opposable thumbs with which they grasp branches firmly; the second fingers on their limbs are short. These animals have a moist nose, toothcomb, and a toilet claw on the second toe of the hind legs. The neck has 4-6 low growths that cover their elongated vertebrae which have sharp points and nearly pierce the skin; these are used as defensive weapons. Both males and females have large scent glands under the tail, which they use to mark their territories and reinforce pair bonds. Pottos have a distinct odor that some observers have described as a smell of curry.
East African pottos are found from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo east to western Kenya. In addition, an isolated subspecies (P. i. stockleyi) is native to the slopes of Mount Kenya, making it the easternmost population of any potto. East African pottos live in lowland and mountainous moist forests and in swamp forests.
Pottos are nocturnal tree-dwelling creatures; they sleep during the day in the leaves and rarely descend from the trees. East African pottos are usually seen singly but neighboring males and females meet briefly to groom and mate. Pottos move slowly and carefully, always gripping a branch with at least two limbs. They are also quiet and avoid predators using cryptic movement. Their most common call is a high-pitched "tsic", which is usually used between mother and offspring. Pottos have large territories which the animals mark with urine and glandular secretions. Each male's territory generally overlaps with two or more females. Females may donate part of their territories to their daughters, but sons leave their mother's territory upon maturity. If threatened, pottos "freeze" and hide their face and neck-butt their opponent, using their unusual vertebrae. These animals can also deliver a powerful bite. Their saliva contains compounds that cause the wound to become inflamed.
Little is known about the mating system of pottos. It is suggested, however, that these animals may be polygynous where one male mates with more than one female. During the mating season pottos perform courtship rituals which include mutual grooming with claws and teeth, licking and scent-marking each other. These rituals are frequently performed while they hang upside down from a branch. East African pottos breed once a year and the time of breeding varies regionally. After a gestation period of about 200 days, the female gives birth, typically to a single young, occasionally twins. The infant weighs 30-52 g (1-1.8 ounces) at birth. The young first clings to the belly of the mother, but later she carries them on her back. The mother can also hide her offspring in the leaves while searching for food. After about 6 months, the infant is weaned; males leave their mothers' territory, while females remain with their mothers until they are 8 months old.
East African pottos are adaptable species; they are found in both undisturbed and disturbed forests, even near human populations, and are not considered threatened at present. However, localized declines may be taking place due to deforestation for agriculture. In addition, the Mount Kenya subspecies is thought to be either extinct or very nearly due to the clearance of most of its habitat.
The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the East African potto total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
East African pottos play an important role in their native ecosystem. As they eat different fruits, they help to disperse the seeds throughout the forests. When they consume the nectar of certain flowers, pottos may help in their pollination. Since East African pottos consume a wide variety of insects, they may also help control their populations.