Potos flavus (Schreber, 1774)

Don E. Wilson & Russell A. Mittermeier, 2009, Procyonidae, Handbook of the Mammals of the World – Volume 1 Carnivores, Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, pp. 504-530 : 528-529

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Potos flavus


9. View Plate 30: Procyonidae


Potos flavus

French: Kinkajou / German: Wickelbar / Spanish: Kinkaju

Taxonomy. Lemur flavus Schreber, 1774 ,


Seven subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution.

P. f. flavus Schreber, 1774 — the Guianas.

P. f. chapadensis J. A. Allen, 1904 — Amazonia.

P. f. chiriquensisJ. A. Allen, 1904 — Central America and S Mexico.

P. f. megalotus Martin, 1837 — Colombia and Panama.

P. f. meridensis Thomas, 1902 — Venezuela.

P. f. modestus Thomas, 1902 — W Ecuador.

P. f. nocturnus Wied-Neuwied, 1826 — E Brazil. View Figure

Descriptive notes. Head-body 42-76 cm,tail 39-57 cm; weight 1-4—4-5 kg. Adult males are slightly larger than adult females. Atfirst look, the Kinkajou appears more like a monkey than a carnivore, and indeed, it was first described as a lemur. Kinkajous are honey-colored animals with large forward facing eyes, small forward facing ears, and muscular prehensile tails. They have uniform dark colored flanks that blend to lightercolored buffy underparts. Although 2-3 times larger than olingos, the two species can be confused as they run through treetops at night. The olingo shows a much sharper transition from dark dorsal fur to light ventral fur, and its non-prehensile tail is fluffy, not muscular like that of the Kinkajou. The Kinkajou’s fur is woolly, and, across its range, can be a variety of shades, including tawny olive, yellowish-tawny, clay colored, or wood brown. Many animals have a dark mid-dorsal stripe, and some animals in central Panama have a white-tipped tail. In seasonal forests the weight of individual Kinkajous fluctuates over the course of a year in synchrony with fruit availability.

Habitat. Kinkajous are found in most tropical forest types that can produce fruit yearround. This includes rainforest, cloud forest, dry forest, and gallery forest. They have been found from sea level up to 2500 m. Kinkajous are strongly arboreal and rarely seen on the ground. They use all parts of the forest canopy.

Food and Feeding. Kinkajous are primarily frugivorous and nectivorous, although some consumption of insects has been recorded. Kinkajous select for larger, more productive fruiting trees. Fruit made up 90-99% ofthe diet of a population of Kinkajous in Panama, with the rest being nectar and leaves. Of the 78 species eaten from 29 families of plants, Moraceae was the most important, especially Ficus . Fruit and flowers were also the only food types observed from studies in French Guiana and Venezuela, making the Kinkajou one of the most frugivorous mammals. However, one report from Bolivia noted substantial amounts of ants from nine different species in the stomachs of six Kinkajous. All Kinkajou feeding is arboreal. An animal will sometimes hang by its prehensile tail and use both of its forepaws to handle fruit.

Activity patterns. Kinkajous are among the most nocturnal animals. They typically emerge from their dens about 15 minutes after sunset and retire 15-30 minutes before sunrise. All activity is arboreal, and travelling between trees occupies 50-65% oftheir time, with the rest of their activity split between eating and resting.

Movements, Home range and Social organization. Kinkajous have a flexible social structure, with individuals typically moving between trees alone, but socializing in groups at large feeding trees and day dens. Home range size varies from 10-50 ha, with males using slightly larger areas than females. Nightly travel distance averages about 2 km. Density of Kinkajous probably relates to the fruit production oflocal forests, and estimates from different forests range from 12-74 animals/km?*. Most Kinkajouslive in small, patrilineal groups consisting of two adult males, one adult female, a subadult, and a juvenile offspring. Additionally some females apparently live outside of stable groups and consort with males from neighboring social groups. Dispersal is femalebiased; young males appear to stay with their natal group, or disperse to a neighboring territory. Group members overlap regularly in home ranges, but separate each night for most foraging, thus reducing competition over food. During the course of the night group members meet up and socialize at large fruiting trees, where feeding competition is not important, with larger feeding groups, on average, in larger fruiting trees. Group members also socialize around day dens, where some group members sleep together at least 55% of the time. Kinkajous prefer to den in tree holes but have also been recorded making nests in palm trees. In Panama one Kinkajou group was observed using 44 different dens over the course of a year, preferentially sleeping in a few near the center of their range. Social behavior typically includes grooming bouts focused on the ears and head, where an animal can not groom itself. Grooming interactions are most frequent between adult and subadult males, and females and juveniles. In addition, males have been observed playing with juveniles from their group, including chases through the canopy and play-boxing while hanging by theirtails. Aggressive behavioris less common within social groups, but short fights between males have been observed. Neighboring social groups appear to strictly observe territorial boundaries. Aggression between neighboring females has been recorded, involving tree-top chases, with the subordinate animal eventually jumping to the forest floor to flee. Kinkajous communicate through vocalizations and specialized scent glands. Shortrange social interaction calls include brief hisses and screams. The long-range call is a two part “snort-weedle” consisting of one quick snort sound followed by a variable number of weedle vocalizations. This call is sometimes repeated for as long as 15 minutes. The snort-weedle sometimes appears to call-in other social group members, but may have other functions as well. Kinkajous also communicate through scent marks, which are made by three unique glands, one on their abdomen, one on their throat, and a pair of mandibular glands. These glands produce a subtle smell that is slightly fruity and musky. Given the three different types of scent glands, different marks probably have different purposes, which have been hypothesized to include territorial markers, trail markers, and sexual signals. Adult Kinkajous do not face high predation risk because they are generally too nocturnal for eagles, too large for owls, and too arboreal for large cats. Nonetheless, individuals occasionally venture too close to the ground, or are active in daylight, making themselves vulnerable to predation, and have been recorded in the diet ofJaguars, Ocelots and eagles.

Breeding. Kinkajous do not have an obvious breeding season, although this may be masked by the variation in the timing of fruiting seasons across their large range. Kinkajous are polyestrous, with gestation times of 100-120 days, and typically give birth to one pup, although litters of two have been recorded. Pups are dependent on their mothers for an extensive period of time. They do not take solid food until eight weeks and are not fully mobile in the tree branches until they are three months old. Males have not been observed contributing to the care of offspring, and mothers apparently “park” the young pups alone in the trees while they forage. Male Kinkajous reach maturity at 1-5 years and females at 2-25 years. In captivity one Kinkajou lived for 40-5 years, although 20 years is more common.

Status and Conservation. Kinkajousare classified by The IUCN Red List as Least Concern. They are common over much oftheir range and are considered moderately sensitive to habitat fragmentation. They are occasionally hunted for meat but are not a preferred food item, and there is no market for their fur. Some animals are sold into the pet trade.

Bibliography. Bisbal (1986), Daily et al. (2003), Ford & Hoffmann (1988), Hernandez & Porras (2005), Julien-Laferriére (1993, 2001), Kays (1999a, 1999b, 2000, 2003), Kays & Gittlernan (1995, 2001), Kortlucke (1973), Naveda (1992), Poglayen-Neuwall (1962, 1966, 1976b), Redford & Stearman (1993), Redford et al. (1989), Walker & Cant (1977), Weckel et al. (2006).














Potos flavus

Don E. Wilson & Russell A. Mittermeier 2009

Lemur flavus

Schreber 1774