Kinky

If you’ve ever been over to the Cosmic Crab Cafe, you’ve probably had the delight of meeting Kinky the Kinkajou. She has lived on Careening Cay Resort under the care of the Crabtree family for 5 years.

Kinky is friendly and sweet, loves affection and being held and petted, especially on her nose, and she is clearly very bonded to Joan, the owner of the resort. She likes to hang around (Joan’s neck using her prehensile tail for support). You may be greeted at the dock by an exceptionally “buxom” Joan….with a tail sliding and swishing out of her sleeve. As Kinkajous are nocturnal, Kinky likes to curl up and sleep during the day where it’s dark and well padded. And sometimes, inside her “Mama’s” shirt, is just that place.

Kinkajous, also known as “Honey Bears”, are nocturnal rainforest tree dwellers, indigenous to Central and South America. Their big round eyes allow them to see better at night. A powerful prehensile tail helps them travel through and hang in the trees, and balance when standing on their hind quarters. Their front paws are dexterous and they use their “hands” with long claws to grasp. While many people assume they are related to primates because of their prehensile tail, they are more closely related to raccoons.

“Kinky was brought to us by an Indian boy 5 years ago, malnourished and with a broken jaw. I hand fed her soft bananas and papaya for over a month, 3 times a day, covering us both in towels because eating was so difficult and messy,” Joan explains. Her jaw eventually healed, though it remains dislocated, and as a result, her tongue always hangs out.

Kinky has been examined by 4 different veterinarians, who all agreed that a return to her natural environment would probably result in her rapid demise, as her ability to protect herself and forage for food is dramatically compromised.
One of the vets who examined Kinky was the administrator of the Austin Texas Zoo’s Rescue Center, where they were also caring for 7 abandoned Kinkajous. Bred in the US as small exotic pets, Kinkajous, particularly males, often become aggressive when they reach sexual maturity and become unmanageable in their adoptive homes. She was impressed with Kinky’s overall good health and friendly, interactive personality. Another veterinarian, a specialist for small exotic animals in Florida, traveling through Bocas on a sailboat, offered to coordinate with the local vet to perform surgery pro bono in attempt to correct the dislocation in her jaw. However, given his concern that having to rebreak Kinky’s jaw would cause tremendous pain, with no guarantee of success, and with successful reintroduction to the rainforest unlikely, Joan decided to forego the surgery and continue to care for her on the resort.

“When we brought our Golden Retriever puppy, Mango home, they were about the same size and they became instant friends, playing and rolling together for hours then falling asleep together. I think Kinky longed for furry companionship, and Mango missed her 8 siblings. Then Mango grew….and grew…. and….grew. They are still friends, sometimes sharing bananas between them.”

Kinky lived on the second floor porch of the Crabtree’s home, but when her ventures to the yard put her in jeopardy of being attacked and/or eaten by local stray hungry dogs, a cage was built for her for her own protection. It was built around a tree, with a small shelter she can climb into to sleep. Her cage is equipped with a mini water catchment system, so she always has fresh rainwater.

On the few occasions when she succeeded in escaping at night she heads straight for the restaurant and the kitchen ……not the trees. One night, she nibbled her way into a box of wine….evidence was left on the table. “She was either a mean drunk, or had a wicked hangover. Covered in red wine, she hissed when we tried to wake her up for breakfast. But she had successfully made her way back from the bar and returned to her own little home to sleep it off.”

Kinky is taken out of her habitat, cuddled, held and exercised frequently. It’s quite funny to watch Kinky pad around the resort, following Joan or 9 year old twins, Jesse and Jaden. She is fed twice a day. Her favorites are still bananas and papaya, but she also likes pineapple and watermelon. She is also given eggs or boiled chicken with coconut rice several times a week for protein. She either stands to hold her food and eat, or lays down on her back to shovel food into her mouth.

Kinky is loved and well cared for and reciprocates the affection with ”kisses” and licks from her 6 inch tongue (it helps her to get the sweet nectar from flowers or termites out of their mound). It is an ongoing and challenging issue in Bocas that animals are taken away from their natural environment and babies are stolen from their mothers, or are intentionally orphaned and sold for personal gain.

“Of course, the beautiful animals of the rainforest should be protected and able to grow and live free. However, when an animal’s survival is actually threatened by returning them to nature, what choice would you make?”

If you would like to meet Kinky or have further questions regarding her care, please stop by the Cosmic Crab.

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Printed monthly in both English and Spanish with a circulation of 5,000 free copies distributed at airports, hotels, restaurants and various retail locations throughout Bocas del Toro, Panama City, David, Boquete and Costa Rica. Also published on the Internet on a daily basis.

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