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South American kinkajou found in Santa Ana

November 10, 2011 | 10:19 am

A kinkajou, or honey bear, looks through a fence at the Nature of Wildworks sanctuary on Topanga in 2005

A South American rain forest mammal found in Santa Ana is now resting peacefully in San Diego.

The kinkajou, a relative of the raccoon, was found wandering near a Santa Ana elementary school in October, said Santa Ana Zoo Director Kent Yamaguchi.

The animal is now at a rescue shelter in San Diego after a stint with animal control and a stop at the zoo, he said.

Susan Carey, founder of Ramona’s Mostly Monkeys, received the raccoon relative last week. She said no one is likely to come forward to claim the lost kinkajou because a permit is needed to own one in California.

“It’s relatively easy to get things into the state,” Carey said. “But if you get caught with them, that’s another story.”

Had the kinkajou not been scooped up, Carey doubts it would have survived long. Nicknamed “honey bear” for its long tongue that sucks honey from flowers, Carey said kinkajous are neither rare nor dangerous.

Nonetheless, she said it was a good idea to get it away from the school.

“Someone would probably want to pet it,” Carey said. “I wouldn’t consider it a dangerous animal. But they have teeth, and they can bite.”  

Now, the kinkajou has a friend in Papa Bear, another kinkajou that Mostly Monkeys has had for more than a decade.  

Carey said the center’s latest addition doesn’t have an official name yet. But with his rounded head, horizontal ears poking out his head and lots of woolly fur, she’s got a certain Star Wars character in mind.

“He looks a lot like Yoda,” she said. “So it might be that.”


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-- Matt Stevens  

Photo: A kinkajou, or honey bear, looks through a fence at the Nature of Wildworks sanctuary on Topanga in 2005. One of the South American animals was found in Santa Ana in October. Credit: Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times