The kinkajou, also known as the honey bear, is a small mammal, native to the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. They are arboreal animals, which means they live, move and feed exclusively in trees, an ability which they have evolved all on their own. They are the sole species of the genus Potos and aren’t closely related to any other group of tree-dwelling mammals. Their closest cousins are actually the racoons.
The kinkajou’s body is perfectly suited for a life among the treetops – they have very nimble fingers, similar to racoons’, ending with claws and along with the bearcats are the only carnivores with a prehensile tail. This means that it is strong and agile enough to function as an additional arm while climbing or hang from while eating. Although they are carnivores, their diet consists almost exclusively of plants and fruits. A long and skinny tongue helps them lick nectar or extract the honey out of beehives, but their most extraordinary feature are undoubtedly their feet.
They can turn their ankles at 180 degrees, making it easy for them to run both ways along tree branches or climb down from trees headfirst. Kinkajous are pretty hard to find, as they are nocturnal creatures, roaming and foraging at night and preferring to spend their days sleeping inside their tree holes.
Kinkajous fill a very important role in the rainforest’s ecosystem. One of their favorite food is nectar, which they drink out of flowers using their incredible 5 inch long tongues. As a side effect, their face ends up covered all over with pollen, which they then distribute all around the forest. They are actually one of the few mammal pollinators, almost all other being different types of bats.