Raul Kinkajou came to live at the Conservators’ Center many years ago with Rink, his lovely lady friend. The two grew old together in a cozy, companionable way, and we often found them cuddled together while they slept.
When Rink passed away in 2012, our hearts were doubly broken. We missed her dearly, but knew that Raul missed her even more.
What is a Kinkajou?
Native to the rainforests of Central and South America, kinkajous are tree-dwelling mammals that are related to raccoons. They are sometimes called “honey bears” due to their fondness for sweets and are known for using their 7-inch tongues to lick nectar out of deep flowers. They are one of only two carnivore species with a prehensile (gripping) tail; the other is the binturong, which is another fascinating species you can meet at the Conservators’ Center.
Because kinkajous are nocturnal, Raul is known mostly by our staff, volunteers, and visitors on our special Twilight Tours. But to know him is to love him.
Meant to Be
One day, we mentioned our lonesome Raul’s plight to Michelle McKay, a friend of the Center’s who owns Zoofari Educational Encounters. We learned she has a 3-year-old kinkajou girl named Kiaya, who has been very sad and lonely since her male companion died of cancer.
Because Kiaya is the only kinkajou among Michelle’s educational ambassadors, and Raul is one of three kinkajous at the Conservators’ Center, we agreed to move Raul to Zoofari to see whether he and Kiaya would be good companions for one another.
Michelle put them in adjacent enclosures for their initial meeting. “They both stuck their noses as far through the fencing as possible to sniff each other and spent a lot of time checking each other out,” Michelle says. “By the next evening, we were able to introduce them without any problems at all.” It seemed that Kiaya and Raul were both ecstatic to have a new friend!
Though we were sad to say goodbye to Raul, we all agreed that the companionship he is now enjoying at Zoofari is going to ensure him a happier future. Though we retain legal ownership of every animal entrusted to our care, we sometimes put animals on permanent loan to good facilities under special circumstances. (Another example: two of our tigers are on loan to the Greensboro Science Center, where they are thriving.)
Raul and Kiaya now live in a beautiful new indoor enclosure in front of two large windows. “Although they are nocturnal, I see them peeking out during the day to watch the birds fly around outside,” says Michelle, who has quickly grown very fond of Raul. “We plan to extend their enclosure so they will have a tunnel that leads them outside to a large outdoor enclosure.”
Our executive director, Mindy Stinner, met Michelle several years ago. “She came to us for mentoring with a specific situation,” says Mindy. “We know her well enough to be comfortable that Raul will get the best of care and lots of individualized attention. We also feel her educational mission is compatible with ours. We’re all thrilled that Raul is happy with his new companion.”
The Conservators’ Center’s veterinary services supervisor keeps touch with Michelle so we can help her address any health needs that might arise with Raul. Although he is still “our” kinkajou, he will likely live out his days with his new beautiful new valentine, Kiaya. We wish them both the very best!
by Mandy Matson
Director of Communications