Kinkajou, or Honey Bear, a tree-dwelling mammal of tropical America. The kinkajou has a small head, a long body, and short legs. It is about 18 inches (46 cm) long, not including the tail. The tail, a little longer than the body, is used in swinging from branch to branch and to seize things beyond reach of its paws. The kinkajou's fur is grayish-brown. Kinkajous hunt at night and eat honey, fruit, insects, small mammals, and birds and their eggs. They are easily tamed.

Is the Kinkajou a Kind of Monkey?

No, the kinkajou is often mistaken for a monkey, but it is actually a raccoon relative. Like many species of monkeys, the kinkajou lives in trees. Also, a kinkajou has a prehensile (pree HEHN suhl), or grasping, tail as do many species of New World monkeys.

The kinkajou is the only raccoon family member with a prehensile tail. It makes traveling among the trees easy. When a kinkajou moves from branch to branch, its tail keeps a solid grip on one branch until its feet find good support on the next.

A kinkajou’s tail also helps it get its favorite food—fruit. When a kinkajou sees a tasty fruit dangling below, the animal wraps its tail around a branch. Then it uses its hind legs for support and lowers its body upside down. With its hands free, the kinkajou can pick the fruit.

How Else Does a Kinkajou Use Its Tail?

A mother kinkajou uses her tail to care for her baby. The kinkajou usually gives birth to just one baby at a time. This way, a mother kinkajou can give her baby plenty of attention. One way a mother kinkajou cares for her baby is by cuddling it. But she doesn’t use her hands to do this—she cuddles it with her tail.

When a baby kinkajou is frightened, it hisses. The mother makes a soft chirping sound to calm the offspring. But if there really is danger nearby, the mother will carry her baby to safety by grabbing it in her mouth by its scruff, or the back of its neck. This is the way a cat carries its kittens.

A mother kinkajou nurses her baby for its first seven weeks. After that, the baby begins to eat some solid foods in addition to nursing. By 4 months, a young kinkajou, like the one pictured here, can find its own food.

The kinkajou belongs to the raccoon family, Procyonidae. Its scientific name is Potos flavus.