Sophie: The Pudding Bear of Paititi

posted by Faanito on September 1st, 2012

About three months ago our good friend Jeremiah (The Mushroom Guy) came to visit us here at Paititi. He came along with his younger brother and usual mountains of captivating knowledge, but little did we know that in the box under his one arm was to be a little being that would become a new member of the Paititi crew.

So before I continue I just want to state that neither anybody at Paititi Institute nor Jeremiah condones the purchasing of “exotic” animals from unregulated black markets (for obvious reasons – demand and supply). However, it so happens that on the preceding day he was strolling along through Mercado Belen and stopped in the wild animal section (way, way back) for a look-see on route to his casa.

Now I’ve subsequently heard some variations regarding the following bit, but I’ll try and relate the story as best and as concise as I can remember. Jeremiah saw a ridiculously cute animal (see photos) and when he reached out to it she grabbed his finger which led to them having a “moment”. His heart melt, and he bought her (after some bargaining naturally) on the spot (for about $12), but after one night in his apartment he realized that this was not a realistic long-term arrangement and thus this is how she ended up on our doorstep on that fine fateful day.

Furry, long-tailed, fuzzy, inquisitive, playful, blessed in the odor department, an indiscriminate bundle of joy and love and quite bluntly put the most ridiculously cute animal you shall ever encounter, all of us here at Paititi instantly fell in love with young Sophie the Kinkajou (Potos flavus) and immediately adopted her into the family. Though she could easily be mistaken for a monkey-bear-lemur hybrid, Sophie is not a primate and actually hails from the Procyonidae family, which includes olingos, coatis and raccoons. She is an arboreal (tree-dwelling), nocturnal (night-active) mammal native to tropical regions of Central and South America. Furthermore, kinkajous can live up to 40 years in captivity – we predict many more nostril cleaning sessions to come in the future!

Also known as a ‘honey bear’ and called ‘shosna’ in Castellano, kinkajous are omnivores who mainly eat fruit (90%), but will also snack on leaves, flowers, insects and honey. To serve this end they are blessed with amazingly dextrous claws, a full prehensile tail and a long, thin tongue which can extrude up to 5 inches in length! Hence many of our visitors getting quite a surprise after she went adventuring round their nostrils 🙂

Kinkajous are also highly social animals – they sleep in family units and groom one another. Their major modus operandi of communication is by scent – they have multiple glands on their body which they use to mark areas and leave information for other nonspecific individuals.

As mentioned before, kinkajous are nocturnal, and in the wild they will usually find solace in a hollow tree in the daytime, though Sophie prefers a rolled-up yoga mat or Roman’s flute bag. Our little daytime Jekyll and nighttime Hyde now spends most nights guarding our Maloka, though she has been known to be quite a Houdini and wander off for unexpected night-time ear-licking sessions with unsuspecting recipients. On our most recent Healer-2-Healer retreat old Sophers went over on the first night to welcome the new guests in the middle of the night, soon the whole group awoke to a shouts of: “HELP! HELP! A monkey is attacking me!” Needless to say, plans to build Sophie her very own fine abode are already in the pipeline… 🙂

Vicky Lee, a recent participant on the H2H-retreat, said this of Sophie on her Facebook page: “Kinkajou are also called honey bears or night walkers. Sophie is a baby and likes to suckle on ears. She would bounce on our mosquito tents at night like they were trampolines.”


PS. If you have also been fortunate enough to meet young Sophers here at Paititi please leave a comment about any experience you may have had with her!