quite common in lowland forests, kinkajous are more often heard than
seen. In his book A Neotropical Companion, John Kricher refers to
them as the "Banshees of the Rainforest"
and after crossing paths with a group of kinkajous it's easy to see
why. They speed through the canopy, jumping from tree to tree,
whistling and screaming as they pass. Sometimes they travel in small
groups, sometimes solitary. Most people's view of kinkajous is of a
honey colored hairball speeding through the treetops, way above
their heads, and quickly out of sight.
This is unfortunate, because these charming animals are best
observed when standing still. On the Night Tour,
at times we are fortunate enough to encounter these wonderful animals as they feed, rest or move slowly through the trees.
these encounters one can fully appreciate their grace.
Kinkajous are strictly nocturnal and arboreal. Through the years, we
have only seen one kinkajou moving around actively during the day
and twice have we seen them on the ground. They are incredibly
quick, agile, and catlike in their movements and facial features.
have very nimble fingers, essential for manipulating fruit. They are carnivores, although they
prefer fruit and
flower nectar. Blooming Balsa Trees (Ochroma pyramidale) are
great places to encounter them. As they drink from flowers,
kinkajous have been observed snatching bats, who also come for the
nectar, right out of the air and eating them. As they forage they
will also eat bird eggs and hatchlings as well as large insects. Because of their primate-like hand and arboreal lifestyle,
they were first thought to be Lemurs and were originally named
Lemur flavus. Of course, there are no lemurs in Costa Rica and
their name was eventually changed to Potos flavus.
Although they differ in many respects, Raccoons , Coatis, Olingos,
are the Kinkajou's closest relatives in Costa Rica.
One important way in which they differ from their kin is by having a
long, muscular, prehensile tail.
their tail as a fifth limb and it will fully support their body
prehensile tail helps kinkajous reach thin branches and fulfill
their fruity diet.
We often see them hanging upside down enjoying a mango or, as in
these photographs, a wild passion fruit. There is no other carnivore
in America with a prehensile tail and the only other carnivore in the
world with a prehensile tail is the binturong of Asia. The binturong is also a frugivore.
structure of kinkajous remains poorly understood by scientists.
Traditionally, kinkajous were thought to be solitary animals. But,
recent studies have shed light on their complex and unique social
Apparently, typical family groups are made up of two males and one
female along with immature members of the group. The males defend a
10 to 40 hectare territory where the female and their offspring
There is a
dominant male with primary mating rights, but the submissive male
also mates with the group female. All sexually mature members of the
group also mate with individuals outside the group.
Gravid females give birth 100 to 120 days after copulation.
They normally have one pup per litter, but may have twins. Female kinkajous provide all parental care for the pups until they
become independent from their mothers in about four months time.
Kinkajous are long lived animals and scientists estimate their
typical lifespan in nature at about 29 years. Captive animals may
reach 40 years of age!
Below is a video
of a Kinkajou hanging out on a branch. We filmed this video during
the Night Tour
Henderson, C. 2002 Field Guide to the Wildlife of
Costa Rica University of Texas Press
Janzen, D. 1983 Costa Rican Natural History
University of Chicago Press
Kricher, J. 1989 A Neotropical Companion Princeton