The kinkajou, Potos flavus, is a small, tree-dwelling mammal of the family Procyonidæ. Distantly related to the raccoon, kinkajou are one of only two carnivores to have a prehensile tail. Also known as “honey bears,” kinkajou behave as pollinators in many of the forests where they are found.
Kinkajou range stretches throughout most of the neotropical forests in Central and South America. This includes areas in southern Mexico and northern Brazil. Threats to the kinkajou include deforestation, capture for the exotic pet trade, and hunting for meat and fur.
Arboreal and nocturnal, the kinkajou is found in forests as high as 2,500 m and is an important seed disperser in the ecosystems where it is found. This includes the tropical rain, tropical evergreen, and tropical dry forests; savannah; coastal woods; and evergreen galleries in Central and South America.
Kinkajou are solitary by nature, but have been observed in grazing parties as many as five strong for brief periods. This social organization has been described as “solitary group-life.”
The kinkajou is classified as a carnivore because of its teeth, but actually survives on a diet of fruit, flowers, and leaves.
Abigail arrived in 2007 alongside Aleco. A connoisseur of sweets, she chows down happily on a healthy diet (consisting of some proteins plus fruits and vegetables, including her favorite, sweet potatoes) but delights in rare sweet sticky treats like dried dates or honey. It’s hilarious to watch her use her long skinny tongue to “mlem” at something yummy stuffed down into a PVC pipe—a form of kinkajou enrichment. But this elderly girl has an adorably sour side! Though Kinkajou society is not usually matriarchal, Abigail didn’t get that memo. She bosses Aleco around and even insists that she gets treats first. Unfortunately, her leadership fails when it comes to common sense. During cold weather, the pair must be kept in the heated portion of their quarters because they just won’t come in out of the cold if they have the option to stay outdoors.
Our male kinkajou, Aleco, is an easygoing guy who is almost always curious about people. Maybe a bit TOO curious, in fact. Aleco really loves the smell of people. He begs our trained animal care staff to touch his tail or feet so he can rub their scent all over his face. Aleco and his companion, Abigail, love to cuddle together under a baby blanket or cloth hammock. When they peek out during daylight hours they hold the blanket wrapped around their faces and look like little old people wearing cloaks. Aleco is very good at cleverly reaching out to grab things with his long, prehensile tail. He once also stole an intern’s cap and spent the next several hours cuddling with it in his den!