Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America


Rain forest, tropical evergreen forest, and some dry forests. They also inhabit the forests that grow in savanna regions, such as those found in Surinam.


The kinkajou (pronounced KINK ah joo) lives in tropical rain forests from southern Mexico through Brazil. Its small, hand-like feet have fingers that are a bit webbed and end with sharp little claws. Dense, wooly fur acts as a raincoat to help keep the animal dry. The kinkajou’s tail is longer than its head and body and is thickly furred and slightly prehensile.

The scientific name for the kinkajou is Potos flavus. This roughly translates to golden drinker, as the kinkajou has a golden-brown coat and is fond of nectar. The common name kinkajou comes from a word that means honey bear, as this slender animal raids beehives for the golden liquid. As you might have guessed, the kinkajou has quite a sweet tooth!

Who are you calling a monkey?

Looking a bit like a monkey, kinkajous are often mistakenly called primates. They do have many traits and features like that of primates. But kinkajous are carnivores in the family Procyonidae, which includes raccoons, coatis, ringtails, and olingos.

A kinkajou's hearing is sharp enough to detect the movement of a snake.
In Belize, kinkajous are called "night walkers."
Kinkajous are able to turn their feet in the opposite direction and run backward just as quickly as they run forward. This also makes it easy for them to climb up and down trees headfirst.

San Diego Zoo Global has had kinkajous in its collection on and off since the 1920s. Today, the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park each have a kinkajou. The Zoo’s kinkajou serves as an animal ambassador, meeting Zoo guests up close during special programs as a representative of disappearing rain forests.

Although kinkajous are not an endangered species, poachers hunt them for fur and meat or for the exotic pet trade, threatening their numbers. Because they are wild animals, kinkajous do not make good pets, no matter how cute you might think they are! Kinkajous have a painful bite and can be destructive to a home in the middle of the night, when they are most active.

You can help us bring species back from the brink by supporting the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy. Together we can save and protect wildlife around the globe.