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Photo courtesy Black Pine Animal Sanctuary
Chu, a 14-year-old kinkajou at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, gave birth May 2. The baby’s gender has not been determined.

‘Happy surprise’: Baby kinkajou born at sanctuary

Mother’s Day came early for the kinkajou named Chu.

Chu gave birth to a little one May 2 at the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion. Black Pine’s director, Lori Gagen, called the new arrival “a happy surprise,” in light of the sanctuary’s no-breeding policy.

“We’re not the first sanctuary to have a surprise or an oops, and we probably won’t be the last one,” she said.

Kinkajous are long-tailed, tree-dwelling mammals native to the tropical forests of Central and South America. They have characteristics of primates but are related to raccoons.

Fourteen-year-old Chu and the baby’s father, Mishka, 18, came to Black Pine more than 11 years ago. They had been living in a private home in Illinois and were surrendered to the sanctuary after it became clear they were not very good pets, Gagen said.

“They’re pretty much sleeping all day long,” she said of the nocturnal pair.

In 2011, the sanctuary’s vets planned to neuter Mishka, but his vital signs became unstable under anesthesia. Rather than risk his life, the vets decided to leave him unneutered, considering that he and Chu had already lived together for so long without having a baby, Gagen said.

She said the sanctuary is now exploring its options, such as fixing Chu, to prevent future pregnancies.

The new baby has not yet been named, and its gender is still undetermined. It will be alone with its mother for several weeks before Mishka rejoins them.

Gagen cautioned that sanctuary visitors wanting a look at the baby should not get their hopes up.

“Just because they’re nocturnal, it’s rare that daytime visitors ever get to see them,” she said.

Black Pine’s family overnight camp in September might be a good time to see the baby kinkajou and its parents, Gagen said.