10 Incredible Kinkajou Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: January 23, 2023
© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com
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The kinkajou belongs to the Procyonidae family, including the ringtail, cacomistle, and other rainforest animals. Known as the “honey bear,” it is the last surviving member of its genus Potos. Because they evolved their arboreal existence on their own, kinkajous are not strongly associated with any other group of tree-dwelling animals.

Although humans rarely see this nocturnal mammal due to its rigorous nocturnal habits, it is not in danger of disappearing. Yet the kinkajou is still being sought after for the pet trade, and its meat is used to make horse harnesses and pouches. Ready to learn more? Let’s uncover 10 incredible kinkajou facts!

1.      Their Scientific Name Refers To Their Sweet Tooth

Animals That Stay Up All Night - Kinkajou
A kinkajou has nearly perfect vision in the dark.

©Martin Pelanek/Shutterstock.com

Potos flavus is the genus for the kinkajou, a nod to its fondness for honey and other sugary treats. With its golden-brown coat and love of nectar, the kinkajou can be aptly described as the “golden drinker.” Since kinkajou are known to raid beehives in quest of honey, “honey bear” is where the term “kinkajou” comes from.

2.      They Share A Nickname With An Unrelated Species

Happiest Animals: Kinkajou
Kinkajous are sometimes called honey bears because they raid bees’ nests. They use their long, skinny tongues to slurp honey from a hive.

©Mark Caunt/Shutterstock.com

Kinkajous are more generally known as Honey Bears because of their habit of savoring nature’s golden nectar to fulfill their sweet tooth. Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are sometimes referred to as honey bears, but this is not universally accepted. The two species are not connected in any way at all.

3.      They Are Very Intelligent And Love Puzzles

They spend much of their time hunting and wandering in the wild. In the past, they’ve been spotted playing tag and roughhousing. Keeping a kinkajou in captivity necessitates providing puzzles or other activities to keep it from becoming bored. Cage door unlocking is said to be a skill that some have mastered.

4.      Kinkajous Can Make Humans Sick

Kinkajou, Potos flavus, tropical animal isolated on white background
It is common for kinkajous to live in dens with other kinkajous during the day and spend most of their time in the aperture or hole of a tree.

©Unknown man/Shutterstock.com

Pathogenic fungi and parasites, such as raccoon roundworms, can be transported by them and harm humans. Kinkajous, despite their immense appeal, are not good pets because of this. Ringworm is a fungus that can spread between humans and animals. A respiratory syncytial virus is another reason to be cautious with kinkajous.

5.      Kinkajous Are Strictly Nocturnal

Almost the entire day, this animal rests in the treetops. It is common for kinkajous to live in dens with other kinkajous during the day and spend most of their time in the aperture or hole of a tree. The wolves groom and “hang” out with one another as dusk approaches, and then they go their separate ways to begin food gathering, territorial exploration, and human interaction.

6.      They Are Agile Hunters

Weirdest Animal: Kinkajou
A Kinkajou can rotate the ankles on their hind feet backward to facilitate movement in the treetops and up and down along the tree trunk.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

The TA kinkajou’s hearing is so sensitive that it can detect the movement of snakes underground and in trees. Kinkajous are keen hunters as a result. Kinkajou’s feet and ankles can be rotated 180 degrees to aid in their hunting skills. Turning their foot backward allows Kinkajous to mount tree trunks and limbs easily.

7.      Their Waste Might Serve An Important Purpose

Seeds, as well as other plant pieces, are excreted by the kinkajou after eating. Several of the seeds sprout, and the feces provides important nutrients. In the absence of kinkajous, plants spread over a larger area.

8.      Groups of Kinkajous Sleep with Their Troops

Kinkajou, Potos flavus, tropical animal in the nature forest habitat
Kinkajous like to be alone but don’t mind a cuddle with their kin either

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

They’ll all build their homes in the same place. They tuck their legs and tails under themselves before going to sleep. Although kinkajous like to be alone, they will sometimes gather in small groups that normally include one adult female with her young and one or two adult males. Kinkajous like to have a catnap with their kin!

9.      Their Diet is Almost Entirely Fruit

Kinkajous are essentially omnivores because they eat animal and plant matter and occasionally swallow insects and eggs. They bear a striking resemblance to carnivorous creatures because of their pointed teeth. Most of their diet, however, consists of fruits and vegetables.

10.   Kinkajous Have Prehensile Pails

Kinkajou - Potos flavus, rainforest mammal hanging from a branch.
Kinkajous have prehensile tails

©Martin Pelanek/Shutterstock.com

As they scale trees, Kinkajous use their tails as fifth limbs, grabbing onto branches and trunks with their tails. Their dexterous clawed fingers and long, prehensile tail make them well-suited to life in the trees. Kinkajous can grasp small fruits in one hand as they hang upside down on their back legs and prehensile tails while eating.

The Featured Image

Kinkajou close-up
© Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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