Potos flavus

(Many kinkajous in program animal collections are of the subspecies P. f. megalotus.)

Order: Carnivora


Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Pittsburgh Zoo: 4’x6’x8′ cage, 1″ Corner’s style caging, concrete bottom. There are perches and swings hung near the top for climbing. We also hang fleece sacks for sleeping on the sides.Some institutions have had issues with territoriality towards staff during cleaning or training; this behavior was mitigated by making sure that the kinkajou can see staff clearly at all times — a nest-box with windows works better than a fluffy and view-impairing hammock, for example.

Diet Requirements

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Kinkajous need a lot of socialization and bonding with staff to avoid stressful programs (stressful for both presenter AND animal!) One tactic to avoid territorial aggression inside the kinkajou’s enclosure is to talk calmly to the kinkajou upon entering the enclosure, and hand-feeding treats like applesauce. The idea here is to make “visitors” to the enclosure a positive thing.Tactile desensitization is also important: scratching the chin, stroking the back, etc. Oregon Zoo actually had a lot of luck with more physical interactions with their animal: wrestling, playing very physically, training him to voluntarily accept restraint for hand-injections and teeth-brushing, etc. Their animal has ended up being more motivated by physical contact than by food rewards, although it is difficult to say if that is due to their training/socialization plan or simply the personality of that particular animal (or a mixture of both).

    Kinkajous that are not worked with regularly may become aggressive, barking and lunging at staff. For animals that are at that point, it may take a while to socialize properly — a year or more. Many institutions have noticed an increase in aggression at around 2 years of age, so institutions with an animal at that age should be particularly attentive to their kinkajou’s training regimen. Generally, if the kinkajou continues to be socialized with staff, the aggression decreases by 3-5 years of age.

    • One of the challenges that we ran into with training/socialization at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is that the female had intervals of aggressive behavior that would appear and disappear. We have been tracking it for the past 2 years and have linked it to her reproductive cycle. We allow her this time off to minimize stress.


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

  • We have an older kinkajou who does not tolerate being held, but does very well when asked to come out of the crate onto a card table. For small groups of young children, we keep the legs folded so that the table is flat on the floor, which keeps the animal at eye level with the audience.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • Hold the kinkajou by the base of the tail, and slip the free arm under its belly. The kinkajou can wrap its tail around the handler’s waist, and hold on to the handler’s arm with the hind feet. The front legs can dangle down. This position allows the kinkajou feel secure while also giving the handler plenty of control over the animal’s movements.Allowing the kinkajou to climb on the handler’s shoulders looks fun, but the handler doesn’t have much control over the animal. Also, kinkajous like to defecate off branches they’re hanging off of, so a handler with a kinkajou on her shoulders runs the risk of kinkajou-poop down her back!


Potential Messaging

  • Paper – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:One of the best ways for people to help the rainforest is to reduce their use of paper. Many rainforest trees are felled each year for paper that ends up in countries all over the world. Much of the tropical paper pulp products that end up in the United States come from South America, particularly the Amazon Rainforest. Please ask guests to go paperless in the office whenever possible, to print on both sides, to recycle any paper or cardboard they do use, and to purchase products made from recycled paper. At home, they can substitute re-usable cloth towels for disposable paper towels and cleaning wipes and purchase toilet paper made from recycled material rather than super-plush toilet paper which is made from old-growth forests.
  • Wood – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:One of the best ways for people to help the rainforest is to reduce their use of tropical woods. Many rainforest trees are felled each year for lumber, furniture, and other products that end up in countries all over the world. Much of tropical wood imported into the United States comes from South America, particularly the Amazon Rainforest. Flooring, musical instruments, picture frames and other products made of rosewood should be particularly avoided to slow deforestation on Madagascar and to avoid the extinction of endangered or vulnerable rosewood tree species from forests all around the equator. Ask guests to consider used or vintage furniture or new furniture made of wood that has been reclaimed from old structures. There are many alternatives to conventional lumber including flooring and other products made from fast-growing bamboo, and decking made of recycled plastic formed to look like wooden boards.
  • Shade-grown coffee: The original coffee plants that were cultivated could not withstand much sunlight and were therefore grown beneath the canopy of the forest. Due to the popularity of coffee, most strains of coffee plants have been cultivated over time to withstand full sunlight. This has created large-scale deforestation for coffee plantations. Please ask guests to chose organic shade-grown coffee in which the plants are grown beneath the forest canopy, preserving arboreal habitat for tamarins, marmosets, sakis, binturongs, and birds while the forest floor is being used for human purposes. Look for coffee that is Rainforest Alliance Certified or marked “Organic Shade-Grown”.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: Requires advanced-skill handlers. Ours does not like to be picked up, but is very reliable once trained to present on a table. Audiences really enjoy this animal.
  • Philadelphia Zoo: hard to handle, unpredictable, and some individuals have a tendency to bite. Can display aggressive, biting tendencies. Rabies vector species.
  • Pittsburgh Zoo: We have two kinkajous with drastically different personalities. One is handlable by most staff but is incredibly timid. The other is very bold and is limited in the staff that can handle her.
  • Toledo Zoo: They can be difficult to work with.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Kinkajou’s range from eastern and southern Mexico though Belize and Costa Rica in Central America, and down south to Ecuador and southern Brazil in South America. They can be found in a variety of habitats as long as they support vertical diversity. Areas such as wetlands, and near water bodies such as rivers and stream, but are most often found in the rainforest.

Physical Description

Body length = 15.5 and 30 inches.
Tail length = 15.5 and 22 inches.
Weight = 3.25 – 10 lbs.

Kinkajous are a small mammal with short, soft, honey gold or brown fur. They have a round head with small round ears, a cat-like face and very prominent eyes. If you look very carefully at a kinkajou’s tail in the proper light, you can sometimes see a series of faint dark rings on their tails, much like their cousins, the raccoons, coatimundis and ringtails, have on their tails.

Life Cycle

Male kinkajous reach sexual maturity at 1.5 years, females in 2.25 years. The gestation period is 98-120 days. Births may take place from April to December. Generally a single offspring is produced, but twins do occasionally happen. The nursing period usually lasts between 3 to 5 months. Juveniles increase their mass by 12 times in the first six months following birth. Their average lifespan is between twenty and twenty-four years, with some living as long as 29 years. The oldest kinkajou on record lived at the Honolulu Zoo and was reported to be 39 years old.


Kinkajous have fully prehensile grasping tails, which can be used like an extra “hand” when climbing. In the wild they are strictly solitary (except for mothers and juveniles) — this might explain why many kinkajous do better with just one or two “main” handlers, although properly trained and socialized animals can comfortably work with many more. They are an arboreal species and spend most of their time in the canopies of the rainforest, seldom coming down to the forest floor. They are primarily active at night, with peak activity between dusk and midnight, and again an hour before dawn. During the light of day, they sleep in tree hollows or in shaded tangles of leaves, and avoid direct sunlight.

Like their cousins the ringtails, kinkajous can turn their hind feet backwards, so that the clawed toes can be used when descending head-first. They have an excellent sense of touch and smell. Vision is another matter. Kinkajous’ vision is poor – they can’t see color or sense differences in color, which makes their vision less useful for spotting predators, so Kinkajous rely primarily on their highly developed senses of touch and smell. Kinkajous communicate with each other by scent-marking around their home range and travel routes. Scent glands are located in bare areas on either side of the face, at the corner of the mouth, on the throat, and on the abdomen. They also have a wide range of signal calls, from soft chitters to barks and shrill quavering screams.

Threats and Conservation Status

Kinkajous are currently listed as least concern with a decreasing population trend on the IUCN Redlist. This is due to deforestation and fur hunting. In many places kinkajous are hunted for their dense fur. The meat of the animal may also be eaten.

Did you know…


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Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.

Contributors and Citations

Top Photo By Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada (Potos flavus) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters