The Kinkajou in Costa Rica

The arboreal animal known as “The Martilla” is widely seen in the dry forest and usually likes to go to places where it can find trees, even if there are houses or hotels nearby. However, not many people know about this beautiful animal, and due to its nocturnal habits, it seems like an enigmatic creature that lives in the shadows.

The Martilla and its natural history

El Kinkajou mamífero arborícola

Scientific Name: Potos flavus.

Distribution: From southern Mexico to Mato Grosso in Brazil. The Kinkajou in  Costa Rica can be found in different places, such as San Carlos, Osa, the province of Guanacaste, Monteverde, and the Barva Volcano, living in both rainforests and dry forests.

The habitat of the Kinkajou in Costa Rica.

El Kinkajou y el uso de su larga lengua

As a typical animal of rural areas in the country, this animal is called by different names such as “Mico León,” “Perro de Noche,” or “Mico de Noche.” 

Currently, this animal has few threats, mainly because “La Martilla” usually comes out at night and avoids encountering people who could harm it. 

Additionally, no evidence exists that people hunt this arboreal mammal for food. 

However, it may lose its habitat due to urbanization, agriculture, and forest fires, with the latter being the main reason that would reduce the Kinkajou’s chances of survival in Costa Rica’s nature.

El Kinkajou en Costa Rica, NATUWA Santuario de animales silvestres

Furthermore, some people in the towns extract wildlife from nature to use it as a tourist attraction. 

Visitors have to pay if they want to take a picture, touch the animal, or feed it without going to the forest or mountain, and this situation can also include “La Martilla.” 

However, there are different places in Costa Rica, such as zoos and rescue centers, where people work on rehabilitating wildlife, and they can help this arboreal mammal and many more animal species in Costa Rica.

Natural History of the "Mico León".


The Carnivora Order is a group that includes animals adapted to pursue and catch their prey.

In the case of the Procyonidae family, its members are not prominent in size and their plantigrade legs do not have retractable claws. They have arboreal habits and extreme social behavior, often forming large groups or families.

As their typical social behavior indicates, the “Olingo” forms groups with many members who enjoy staying in trees during the day and coming out at night.

It has a round head, small, colossal eyes, and a cream-colored belly. Additionally, its fur can be brown or reddish depending on whether it lives in the wet forest or golden brown if it lives in the dry forest.

Although the “Kinkajou” is included in the Carnivora Order, the truth is that it does not usually eat meat and prefers fruits. Its diet is composed of 99% fruit, but sometimes it can eat birds, small mammals, eggs, and insects when necessary.

El Kinkajou en Costa Rica, NATUWA Santuario de animales silvestres

What is baby Kinkajous like?

Regarding reproduction behavior, females remain pregnant for 112 to 118 days and then give birth to one or two babies, which they carry on their backs until they become independent.

Here are seven interesting facts about this beautiful arboreal mammal.

Seven interesting facts about “La Martilla.”

1) Potos flavus has a prehensile tail that it uses to move more quickly in trees.

2) Sometimes, “La Martilla” is confused with the Olingo (Bassaricyon gabbii) because their bodies have similar characteristics, but the latter does not have a prehensile tail.

3) The “Mico de Noche” has odoriferous glands on its face, throat, and belly.

4) This animal is essential in the ecosystems where it lives because it disperses the seeds of different tree species and helps pollinate.

NATUWA Santuario de animales silvestres el Kinkajou
El Kinkajou mamífero arborícola

5) The “Mico Leon” makes a very characteristic sound, like a scream or a shriek, common to hear in the rural areas of Costa Rica at night.

6) The Kinkajou in Costa Rica can live up to 20 years with adequate care in captivity. The Wildlife Conservation Law of Costa Rica 7317, articles 14 and 18 prohibit its use as a pet.

7) This arboreal mammal feeds mainly on fruits and flower nectar, so it has a long tongue up to 5cm long to extract nectar from flowers. 

Due to its long tongue and whiskers, it can transport pollen from flower to flower, thus promoting fertilization of flora species in Costa Rica’s tropics.

See other amazing animals at the NATUWA Sanctuary by following the link below. 

View more animals…!

Captivity management, diet, and environmental enrichment.

Enclosures for Kinkajous

In captivity, this animal needs a space with branches and logs where it can climb and move using its prehensile tail, even while eating or simply relaxing, to reduce any source of stress.

A walled garden with trees and sources of water would be the ideal habitat for this arboreal animal, providing it with the possibility of browsing for food such as fruits and flowers in the trees.

Of course, captivity requires supplementary nutrition to what it can find in the tree-filled enclosure.

Since it is a nocturnal animal, the “Night Monkey” usually sleeps during the day and, for that reason, needs a place where it can hide and rest calmly until nightfall.

A den at the top of the enclosure (a wooden box, hollow log) is ideal since they are nocturnal mammals.

It is crucial to incorporate platforms made of wood or branches into the enclosure so that it can quickly move around the space.

El Kinkajou en Costa Rica, Manejo en cautiverio del Kinkajou en NATUWA Santuario de animales silvestres

The Kinkajou in Costa Rica and its diet in captivity

To be healthy and maintain an excellent physical appearance in captivity, the Kinkajou has a diet of fruits (such as bananas, apples, and mangoes), honey, sometimes meat, and vitamin and mineral supplements.

In addition, it only feeds when awake because the idea is to try not to change its feeding behaviors.

Generally, it feeds at night.

At NATUWA, Lapas Sanctuary, the staff in charge of the animals does everything possible to apply scientific knowledge and proper care to maintain the natural behaviors of the animals. Therefore, Potos flavus is not part of the tours or the usual animal exhibition. The care provided to the rescued Kinkajous is thanks to the Volunteer Program.

Author: NATUWA
Topic: The Kinkajou in Costa Rica.
Date: 05/25/2020
Wildlife Management Center
NATUWA, Aranjuez, Puntarenas.


Mora, J. (2000). Wild mammals of Costa Rica. San Jose, Costa Rica: EUNED.

Leave a Reply