The kinkajou, a small arboreal mammal with big eyes


This funny animal with a woolly coat and big round eyes spends his days sleeping in the hollow of trees. Looking like a marsupial, with which it has no kinship, the Kinkajou has long remained an enigma among naturalists. Zoom on a carnivorous which mainly consumes plants!

The kinkajou, long unclassifiable

The kinkajou (Potos flavus) belongs to the Procyonidae family, such as the raccoon, the red panda and the coati. The animal has long been unclassifiable and remains today a biological curiosity among carnivores non carnivorous. It measures between 90 cm and 1 m long (half of which is tail), 20 cm high and weighs between 1.5 kg and 4.5 kg. Its short, slightly frizzy coat shows variations of red, brown, caramel and gray on the upper part and a cream to orange palette on the ventral part. Its small head takes the form of heart while its pointed muzzle ends in a dark pink to brown nose. The mammal sports the large round eyes typical of animals nocturnal. Its legs extended by sharp, non-retractable claws facilitate its movement in trees just like its tail. graspable which he uses as with one hand. Particularity: the kinkajou walks by crossing its legs at each step.

The kinkajou, an exclusively arboreal species

The kinkajou lives in the tropical forest humid Central and South America, from Mexico to Paraguay via French Guiana. The animal is found in the foliage of trees, at a height of between 10 and 25 meters. It sometimes ventures into areas cleared for plantations and gardens of individuals. Its ideal temperature is between 23 ° C and 35 ° C maximum because if it supports the cold, excessive heat does not suit it. It is not observed beyond 2,500 meters above sea level.

Kinkajou, an excellent pollinator

If his dentition Classifies it in the order of carnivores, the kinkajou feeds mainly on fruits (avocados, bananas, guavas, papayas …), honey, flowers, nectar and pollen that it collects by plunging its tongue expandable in the hive. Its ecological role is important because it contributes to the dissemination of seeds by zoochory (attached to its hairs) and to the pollination. The kinkajou completes its menu with insect larvae, ants, termites, bees, scorpions and frogs but also by small reptiles, eggs and small birds that he skillfully hunts.

Kinkajou: noisy and fragrant

This animal nocturnal and solitary spends his days resting in the tangles of branches sheltered from the sun. Fearing the brightness, the kinkajou begins to activate at the beginning of the night and shortly before dawn. To move, it grabs the branches by its long tail and hardly ever descends to the ground. His way of life gives a predominant role tosmell and vocalizations. Thus, upon awakening, it marks its territory by vigorously scratching its glands located under the mandibles, on the throat and on the stomach. In addition to its smell, the animal uses a whole range of screams (growling, yelping, hissing, yapping) to defend his domain or attract a partner. The mammal – which lives in small groups of half a dozen individuals – also uses vocalizations to locate its congeners and coordinate the movements of the clan to optimize the search for food.

Three years with his mother

During the breeding season which extends from December to February, the smells of female in heat attract males. The different suitors will then face each other through posturing and screams. In the aftermath of the quarrels, a second meeting with the partner is extended by a cohabitation of one month. After 4 months of gestation, the female gives birth to a single young in a nest hidden high in the trees. At birth, the deaf and blind baby weighs between 150 and 200 grams. His hearing develops before the fifth day and its eyes open between the first and third week. Breastfeeding lasts between 7 and 8 weeks then a varied diet is given to it. At 4 months, the first signs of weaning, he knows how to use his tail to move from branch to branch. The juvenile reaches its sexual maturity between 1 and a half and 2 years old but stays with his mother until the age of 3.

Kinkajou: the threats

Among the main predators of kinkajou are the felids knowing how to climb on trunks (wild cat, ocelot, jaguarondi) and raptors, such as the fierce harpy, the Spectacled Owl, or Isidore’s Eagle. The small carnivore is also a victim of diseases such as leishmania and trypanosome while mosquitoes transmit arbovirus to it. Classified as “Least Concern” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the species is however affected by the deforestation which reduces its habitat and by hunting for its meat and coat. Kinkajou are also captured to fuel the New Pet Trade (NAC). Only the staff living in the parks or reserves are spared from these threats. Its longevity is 30 years.

Photo credit: Ichtusvet

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