Binturong

Photo Credit: Foto Martien

Photo Credit: Foto Martien

The Binturong, or “Bearcat,” lives and sleeps in the jungle canopies of southeastern Asia. They can weigh anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds, the females being heavier than males, making them the largest member of the Viverridae family. They wear a thick coat of coarse fur, which can vary widely in color, but always displays characteristic light ticking. The Binturong’s heavily muscled tail is nearly equal to the length of the body, and their small round ears are decorated with bushy tufts.

The Binturong is known to be active both nocturnally and diurnally. Though they are classified as carnivores, their diet is widely varied, and they have been known to dine on many different fruits, as well as small rodents, eggs, insects, leaves, birds, carrion, and even fish, which the Binturong is capable of swimming and diving to catch. Strangler Figs, a large part of the Binturong diet, depend on these animals for their survival, the seeds can only germinate after they have passed through a Binturong digestive tract.

Though solitary, the Binturong is not particularly territorial, and their home ranges often overlap. On occasion, small family groups may form. Individuals communicate with one another through both vocalization and scent. Binturongs snarl, howl, hiss, grunt, snuffle, wail and chuckle. Females will let males know they are ready to mate with a purring sound. Though they have a large vocabulary, Binturongs communicate mainly through scent. As they travel through their territory, individuals will use scent glands on either side of their anus to mark tree branches. The smell from these glands is said to strongly resemble hot buttered popcorn! These scent marks allow other Binturongs to know who has been where and how they are doing.

Only one of two carnivores with a prehensile tail, the Binturong is adapted for an arboreal life, moving slowly and steadily through the canopy. Their hind legs can be rotated, allowing their claws to grip equally well whether they are headed up or down a tree. Because they are large and heavy, the Binturong is frequently sighted on the ground traveling from tree to tree, rather than making long leaps between branches. Despite what may be considered an ungainly appearance, the Binturong is quite graceful in its natural environment, and their surprising acrobatics can be seen in this video.

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