When I arrived, both of the kinkajous were in rehabilitation and almost ready to be released. To ensure that they were ready to go out, I redesigned their enrichments to mimic the ways they would need to find food in the wild, including giving them unpeeled fruit, fruit sealed in a cardboard roll, and pulped fruit in a container that they had to use their tongues to lick out.
A fellow intern and I conducted behavioral observation to ensure that they were climbing well and showing natural activity schedules. Once we were certain they would survive in the wild, we took them out to an isolated patch of forest to release them. We decided to give them a soft release, and provided a nest box and food for them to get adjusted to their new home. When we opened up the doors of their kennel, they quickly climbed out and began to explore the trees and new scents around them. Pink has reappeared around a nearby house, but we hope this is an isolated incident and he will soon dwell solely in the forest where he belongs! Selah is doing great, and I'll be sure to include any updates about them in the future!
In addition to working with the kinkajous in rehab, I've gotten to know the sanctuary kinkajous pretty well. My research project involves putting up camera traps to monitor the two cages in the sanctuary, and when I began my project, I was blissfully unaware of how curious kinkajous are. I walked into Julian and Hillary's enclosure during the day when they were sleeping, and I started setting up the camera trap. A couple minutes later, I saw movement out of the corner of my eyes and suddenly Julian, the kinkajou that was supposed to be fast asleep, was right next to me!
He climbed up to the camera trap that I had so carefully placed inside the cage and began to paw and bite at it, and after he had thoroughly messed up all my hard work, he decided that I was the more interesting object in his enclosure. Moving more quickly than I could imagine, he climbed down a tree branch, crossed the ground to my leg, and promptly climbed up to my shoulder like I was some bizarre tree! Now, the rules of the sanctuary clearly state that interns are not allowed to touch, pet, or cuddle the animals, but I was never told what to do when the animal is on top of you! Unsure of what to do, I just waited, barely suppressing laughter, while he sniffed my hair, pawed at the radio on my belt, and chewed on my shirt. After a short while, he climbed back down to the ground, but since that incident I've learned my lesson and have started putting up the camera traps on the outside of their enclosures! From this close interaction, I also learned that despite the stinky rotting fruit rinds and poop they leave around their enclosure, kinkajous themselves actually smell quite nice! Their fur has a pleasant, nutty smell to it, which I would never have guessed before working with them.
Kays R. Gittleman JL. 2001. The social organization of the kinkajou Potos flavus (Procyonidae). Journal of Zoology. 253(4): 491-504.
Kays RW. 1999. Food Preferences of Kinkajous (Potos flavus): A Frugivorous Carnivore. Journal of Mammalogy. 80:589-599. https://doi.org/10.2307/1383303
The Kids Saving the Rainforest staff