Southern Mexico, Central America, and South America


Rain forest


The kinkajou (pronounced KINK ah joo) is a mammal found in tropical rain forests from southern Mexico to Brazil. The scientific name for the kinkajou, Potos flavos, translates to “golden drinker,” because the animal has thick, golden fur and often drinks nectar from large balsa flowers. Kinkajous are considered an important pollinator; as they go from flower to flower drinking nectar, the pollen sticks to their face and then smears off at the next flower.

The name kinkajou comes from a word in the local language that means “honey bear,” as these slender animals have been seen raiding beehives for the golden liquid. Kinkajous have 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 similar to that of primates. However, kinkajous belong to the family Procyonidae, which includes raccoons.

A kinkajou's hearing is sharp enough to detect the movement of a snake.
A 5-inch-long (13 centimeters) tongue helps kinkajous slurp up as much nectar and honey as they can find.
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.
In Belize, kinkajous are called "night walkers."

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has a kinkajou named Poncho. He serves as an animal ambassador, meeting guests up close and making appearances at special events.

Although kinkajous are not an endangered species, poachers hunting them for fur and meat or for the exotic pet trade are threatening their numbers. Because they are wild animals, they do not make good pets, no matter how cute you might think they are! Kinkajous have a painful bite and can be very 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.