By Alexandra Ashe, Kinkatopia
A monkey bear — this is a popular way to describe a kinkajou. Kinkajous are South and Central American mammals that reside in the canopies of rainforests. They have a prehensile tail — which acts as a fifth appendage, helping them get around treetops — and a dense, brown fur coat. They have been dawned the nickname “honey bear” for their admiration of honey and have a 4- to 5-inch tongue that allows them access to hives. (And flowers, they love nectars too!)
Kinkajous have been relocated from the wild all over the world due to the pet trade. They are both captured and bred. Currently, there are breeders worldwide (mostly in the U.S.) who sell these animals. The problem is that many breeders do this irresponsibly and their customers rush into getting kinkajous as “pets.” These animals are very overrepresented in the pet trade and underrepresented when it comes to information.
Some states require you to have a permit to own a kinkajou, some do not. Unfortunately, regulations are slim and these animals become victims of being kept improperly or re-homed in endless cycles. There are thousands of kinkajous in captivity living within the U.S., and Kinkatopia is working to give them a voice.
Kinkajous are far from domesticated animals. Many people acquire them with the unrealistic expectation that they are comparable to a cat or a dog. This is not the case. They can be unpredictable with bouts of aggression and mood changes. Bites are almost certain. Kinkajous have large teeth that pack terrible injury with infection. They are very smart and mischievous. They are expensive, require a lot of space, and are incredibly sensitive. A person can check all the boxes in giving them the best life and there is still the possibility they’ll turn on you.
In 2015, I was an impulsive individual who purchased a kinkajou. At the time, I was running a captive wildlife and exotic animal organization and came in contact with my first baby kinkajou. Within 48 hours of meeting him, I took a loan from my bank and purchased Arkham from a local exotic pet shop. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. For a while, he was small, sweet, and manageable; however, he quickly grew into what he was all along, a wild animal. I know wholeheartedly because I learned the hard way.
Arkham inspired the evolution of Kinkatopia. I made many mistakes — information was scarce and the community was small. It was clear there was a need in the kinkajou realm. Even though he presented many challenges, I was head over heels for his species. I received the nonprofit status for my past haven in March 2017, and in March 2018, I relaunched as an entirely kinkajou-specific organization. The first and only of its kind to date.
Kinkatopia is a haven for kinkajous seeking a permanent home. We pride ourselves on husbandry, socialization, diet, training, enrichment, and overall care. We are dedicated to researching, publishing, and educating about the species. We advise against people getting them as pets — they are not “pets” — however Kinkatopia is here to help all captive kinkajous. Our mission is to assure all captive kinkajous have the best quality of life.
In 2019, Kinkatopia placed 18 kinkajous into permanent environments and consulted on 5 others with California Fish and Wildlife. In addition, within the first two months of 2020, I worked on 10 cases (14 kinkajous total) to facilitate permanent placement. As you can see, the numbers are increasing at an astounding pace. I have consulted internationally with zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries, and private owners on a range of subjects encompassing the overall well-being of kinkajous.
Kinkatopia is a “we” organization. It consists of an incredible board of directors as well as an incredibly supportive community made of kinkajou keepers and enthusiasts alike. Please share our cause and visit our website to see how you can support, volunteer, and get involved with Kinkatopia. The more people that know about and support us, the more kinkajous we can help! Visit our website at Kinkatopia.org.