AskDefine | Define kinkajou

Dictionary Definition



1 arboreal fruit-eating mammal of tropical America with a long prehensile tail [syn: honey bear, potto, Potos flavus, Potos caudivolvulus]
2 a kind of lemur [syn: potto, Perodicticus potto]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings


From quincajou, from a Native American source, probably originally meaning ‘wolverine’ (compare Algonquin Kwingwaage).


  • /ˈkɪŋkəˌʤuː/, /ˈkɪŋkəˌʒuː/


  1. A carnivorous mammal of Central America and South America with a long, prehensile tail, related to the raccoon.

Scientific names



Potos flavus

Extensive Definition

The Kinkajou (Potos flavus), also known as the Honey Bear, or Sugar Bear, is a rainforest mammal of the family Procyonidae related to the olingo, ringtail, cacomistle, raccoon, and coati. It is the only member of the genus Potos. Native to Central America and South America, this arboreal mammal is not very rare, though it is seldom seen by people because of its strict nocturnal habits. Kinkajous may be mistaken for ferrets or monkeys, but are not related. The kinkajou's wooly fur consists of an outer coat of gold (or brownish-gray) overlapping a gray undercoat. Olingos are similar to kinkajous in morphology and habits. However, genetic studies have shown that the kinkajous were an early offshoot of the ancestral procyonid line and are not closely related to any of the other extant procyonids. The similarities between kinkajous and olingos are thus an example of parallel evolution; the closest relatives of the olingos are actually the coatis.


An average adult kinkajou weighs 2–3 kg (4–7 lb). Average adult body length is 17-22 inches; in addition to body length, average tail length is 16-22 inches. Although the kinkajou is classified in the order Carnivora and has sharp teeth, its diet consists mainly of fruit. The kinkajou's slender five-inch extrudable tongue helps the animal to obtain fruit and to lick nectar from flowers, so that it sometimes acts as a pollinator. (Nectar is also obtained by eating entire flowers.) Although captive specimens will avidly eat honey (hence the name "Honey Bear"), honey has not yet been observed in the diet of wild kinkajous.
Like raccoons, kinkajous' remarkable manipulatory abilities rival those of primates. The kinkajou has a short-haired, fully prehensile tail (like some New World monkeys), which it uses as a "fifth hand" in climbing. It does not use its tail for grasping food. Scent glands near the mouth, on the throat, and on the belly allow kinkajous to mark their territory and their travel routes. Kinkajous sleep in family units and groom one another. While they are usually solitary when foraging, they occasionally forage in small groups, and sometimes associate with olingos. The kinkajou is distinguished from the olingo by its prehensile tail, its foreshortened muzzle, its extrudable tongue, and its lack of anal scent glands.
Kinkajous have excellent senses of touch and smell, but poor vision: they cannot differentiate colors.

As pets

Kinkajous are sometimes kept as pets. They are playful, generally quiet and docile (although sometimes aggressive), and have no noticeable odor.


Kinkajous enjoy pineapple, nectar, honey, insects, grapes, mangos, melons, and peas. They live an average of about 23 years in captivity, with a maximum recorded life span of over 40 years. Kinkajous breed throughout the year, giving birth to one or occasionally two small babies after a gestation period of 112 to 118 days.


Kinkajous dislike being awake during the day, and dislike noise and sudden movements. An agitated kinkajou may emit a scream and attack, usually clawing its victim and biting deeply. A nocturnal animal, the kinkajou's peak activity is usually between about 7:00 PM and midnight, and again an hour before dawn. During daylight hours, kinkajous sleep in tree hollows or in shaded tangles of leaves, avoiding direct sunlight.
Kinkajous communicate with a variety of vocalizations. Because their loudest call is shrill and resembles a woman's scream, one Spanish folk name for the kinkajou is "la llorona" ("the weeping woman").


There are seven subspecies of kinkajou:
  • Potos flavus flavus
  • Potos flavus chapadensis
  • Potos flavus chiriquensis
  • Potos flavus megalotus
  • Potos flavus meridensis
  • Potos flavus modestus
  • Potos flavus nocturnus
kinkajou in Czech: Kynkažu
kinkajou in Danish: Snohalebjørn
kinkajou in German: Wickelbär
kinkajou in Spanish: Potos flavus
kinkajou in French: Kinkajou
kinkajou in Italian: Potos flavus
kinkajou in Lithuanian: Kibiauodegis meškėnas
kinkajou in Hungarian: Farksodró
kinkajou in Dutch: Kinkajoe
kinkajou in Norwegian: Viklebjørn
kinkajou in Polish: Kinkażu
kinkajou in Portuguese: Jupará
kinkajou in Russian: Кинкажу
kinkajou in Swedish: Veckelbjörn
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