Can You Have a Kinkajou as a Pet?
There are many reasons for keeping a kinkajou as a pet, but it is important to know whether the positives outweigh the negatives. Also known as a honey bear, the kinkajou (Potos flavus) is a mammal in the same order as raccoons with which they share certain characteristics. They are distinguished between their close relatives in different ways, including possessing a prehensile tail. This is an appendage more associated with mammals such as primates rather than members of the Procyonidae family, although the kinkajou is not the only procyonid with this anatomical feature.
At AnimalWised, we ask can you keep a kinkajou as a pet? We discover what care honey bears as pets require, as well as whether keeping kinkajous as pets is a good idea.
Is keeping a kinkajou as a pet legal?
The legal aspect of keeping domestic animals is not the same on a global level. Each country will have their own laws on the importation of animals, including exotic animals such as the kinkajou. Within each country, states and regions will have their own legislation which will determine the legality of keeping a kinkajou as a pet.
184 countries are currently signed up to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This is to voluntarily participate in a conservation effort to protect vulnerable species, of which the kinkajou is not.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is the largest conservation organization in the world and works for the planet's biodiversity. In terms of the kinkajou, the ICUN reports the following:
- This species is classified in the category of least concern.
- Only in Honduras is it protected under Appendix III of CITES due to problems it has been facing problems such as hunting, illegal trade and the impact on its habitat over years.
According to CITES, the kinkajou is covered by appendix III, which contains:
[...] species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade... A specimen of a CITES-listed species may be imported into or exported (or re-exported) from a State party to the Convention only if the appropriate document has been obtained and presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit.
The above reflects that keeping the kinkajou as a pet has only been regulated in Honduras at this point. However, in no country can an exotic animal be legally introduced without the required permits from government entities. For example, the United States does not have a ban on importing the kinkajou, but they will need the correct importation papers if you want to keep it as a pet. Each individual state may also vary on their specific exotic animal laws.
Why do people want to keep kinkajous as pets?
The kinkajour or honey bear is a member of the Procyonidae family. The main reason why many people who live in domestic environments want to keep certain animals as pets is due to their cuteness. The kinkajou is undoubtedly a very adorable animal. Their tender face and almost human-like hands mean just going about their daily activities can be a wonder to watch.
Honey bears can also be very sweet and docile animals. They can be very playful, even being responsive to a certain amount of training. Although we cannot walk them like a dog, we can be involved in activities. As arboreal animals, they love to climb and their prehensile tail allows them to swing from places other animals cannot.
Another reason why someone might want to keep a kinkajou as a pet is a love of nature. By sharing a life with an animal, we can learn from them, care for them and experience an enriched life. However, it is also a love for nature which should prevent the majority of us from keeping kinkajous as pets.
Learn about caring for another procyonid with our article on keeping raccoons as pets.
Why you shouldn't keep a kinkajou as a pet
The kinkajou is a wild animal that is not domesticated and should not live in captivity unless necessary for rehabilitation purposes. While there are kinkajous kept as pets by various individuals, it is not recommended for the following reasons:
- This species has arboreal habits and requires forests with closed canopies to develop properly. Most domestic environments will not have the ability to appropriately replicate their natural habitat, so having it in captivity often produces a state of stress.
- Procyonids are common carriers of the parasitic worm Baylisascaris procyonis, capable of causing severe encephalitis in humans and sometimes resulting in death. This happens more frequently in raccoons, but it can also happen with kinkajous.
- Many illegally purchased animals end up being abandoned in habitats that are not their own, creating complications for the animal and the ecosystem into which it is released.
- The kinkajou is not usually an aggressive animal, but in some cases it can become stressed to the point of causing significant bites to a person.
- Thought to be a solitary species, it is now known to develop complex social interactions with its conspecifics. In terms of reproduction, it has a courtship that implies a wide movement in its distribution area. Therefore, depriving them of this type of relationship seriously harms the animal's welfare.
- This species plays an important role in its habitat as a seed disperser, so its decline may affect the native ecosystem.
- Kinkajous live to around 25-27 years, but there are many instances of them living well into their thirties. For this reason, the commitment of keeping a kinkajou as a pet is a long one which not everyone will be able to do.
Finally, another reason why you should not keep a kinkajou as a pet is related to the ethical aspect. We must stop seeing animals as objects or toys. They are living beings that feel pain, anguish, fear and stress. If we love the kinkajou, we should help them by protecting their natural ecosystems, not by removing them and lowering their quality of life.
What is the kinkajou's habitat like?
We have said that the kinkajou cannot remain in captivity because it is very difficult to reproduce its natural habitat. This is why we look more closely at said natural habitat. The kinkajou is native to countries such as Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela. As it needs trees, it can live in the following types of forests:
- Neotropical forests
- Tropical jungles
- Tropical evergreen forests
- Dry tropical forests
- Savannah forests
- Dry forests
- Evergreen gallery forests
Although in certain aspects it can be varied, the kinkajous is made up of wooded areas, which are not found in a domestic home, much less in cages. In addition, as we mentioned, its reproduction involves courtship and interaction that occurs in the large trees where it lives, moving from one to another.
The above confirms that although you can legally do so, you should not keep a kinkajou as a pet. If we do, we will have an unhappy and stressed animal without adequate living conditions. If you want to enjoy its presence and you are lucky enough to live in one of the mentioned areas, you can try to spot it in its natural habitat and observe it without disturbing it. Without a doubt, this is the best way to care for the kinkajou.
If you want to read similar articles to Can You Have a Kinkajou as a Pet?, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.
1. CITES. (n.d.). Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Retrieved from: https://cites.org/eng/disc/text.php
- Helgen, K., Kays, R., & Schipper, J. (2016). Pothos flavus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved from: https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T41679A45215631.en
- Kazacos, K. R., et al. (2011). Roundworms in Raccoons from en Pet Kinkajous. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6010a2.htm
- Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (n.d.). Spanish Catalog of Invasive Alien Species. Retrieved from: https://www.miteco.gob.es/es/biodiversidad/temas/conservacion-de-especies/especies-exoticas-invasoras/ce-eei-catalogo.aspx
- Rehder, D. (2007). Pothos flavus. Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Potos_flavus/