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Kinkajous On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Mattias Klum

Kinkajous On Assignment

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From Author

Holly Menino

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Lars-Magnus Ejdeholm (top) and from Holly Menino



Field Notes From Photographer
Mattias Klum

Best Worst Quirkiest
    Several nights in a row, a lactating female kinkajou came near me and my assistant. I kept hoping she'd eventually bring her baby, and one rainy night I finally spotted her climbing up the trees with it. The pair became quite comfortable around us, and they stayed for a couple of hours before finally wandering off. This experience was absolutely overwhelming, photographically and emotionally. I'd been dreaming of photographing a baby kinkajou with its mother in the wild for this assignment. I just had no idea that it would actually come true. (Click to see one of these images.)

    I'm used to encountering leeches, sand flies, and other pests when I'm working in the wild. But there was nowhere to run or hide on this assignment. In the evenings I had to stay put in the trees while everything around me blackened with swarms of mosquitoes. I always make a point of wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and insect repellant, but I could never get enough protection. The mosquitoes always seemed to find a way in for a bite to eat. By the time I left Panama, I was red, swollen, and itchy.

    When I asked Panamanians about kinkajous, most replied "What? Kinkajous?" Like most people, they didn't know what I was talking about. Very little is known about kinkajous, and hardly anyone has ever photographed them in the wild. Also, a large portion of the images I'd seen of them were of tame ones in zoos during the day. So it was fascinating to do an entire assignment on such an obscure animal on its own nocturnal turf.
    Every evening at 5:30 I climbed into the canopy with my night-vision goggles and waited most, if not all, of the night for kinkajous to show up. When they finally did, I made sure I didn't scare them off, which isn't easy for a photographer. Kinkajous don't like light, so I had to work at what felt like lightening speed.
    When the animals finally got accustomed to my presence, my assistant had to quickly turn on a flashlight so I could focus and shoot off a couple frames. Then we'd hurry and turn everything off. This on-and-off cycle lasted for ten weeks. Each night I'd be lucky if I walked away with half a roll of film.

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