Scientific name: Arctictis binturong
Conservation status: Vulnerable
The binturong is sometimes given the name “bear cat” because it has a face that looks like a cat and a body like a bear with long shaggy black hair, however they are not related to either animal. They have stiff white whiskers and a prehensile tail that can act like a fifth hand and is almost as long as their body. Binturongs have lighter or silver coloured hair on their face which makes them appear bigger to other animals. They have small rounded ears with long tufts of hair and small reddish brown eyes. Binturongs are able to turn their ankles backwards so that their claws can still grip onto a tree when they are climbing down a tree headfirst.
The average length of a binturong is 60 to 90 cms (2 to 3 ft) with a tail length of 60 to 90 cms (2 to 3 ft) and the average weight is between 9 to 14 kgs (20 -31 lbs).
The lifespan of the binturong in the wild is up to 20 years and they can live over 20 years in captivity.
Binturongs are omnivores and hunt small reptiles, birds, mammals, rodents, insects, carrion and plant shoots. A large proportion of their diet however is made up of fruit.
Binturongs through their diet play a very important role in the forests where they are found. They help spread seeds from the fruit that they eat through their fecal matter, which helps to replant the rain forest. Also because they eat rodents they help to keep the pests down.
The binturongs are found in southeast Asia occurring in Thailand, Indochina, Myanmar, Philippines, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Malaysia.
Their habitat is tropical rainforests, high forests and jungles.
Binturongs are now classified as vulnerable mainly due to habitat destruction and poaching for their fur and their meat. Their body parts are also used in some traditional medicines and they are sometimes captured for pets.
Mating can take place at any time of the year as the female binturong is one of only a few mammals that can experience delayed implantation which means that the female is able to time when her young are born. She will give birth to them when the environmental conditions are at their best. The females are bigger and heavier than the males and are the dominant sex in the species. After a gestation period of 84 to 92 days the female will give birth usually to 1 or 2 babies but there may be up to 6. The young are born with their eyes closed and weigh about 150-300 grams, they stay hidden in their mothers fur for the first few days. They begin to eat solid foods at about 6 to 8 weeks and they are sexually mature at about 2 and a half years of age.
Binturongs climb trees and leap from branch to branch using its tail and claws to hang on with while it looks for food. They are primarily nocturnal creatures that sleep in tree branches during the day and look for food at night.
They mark their territory by using a scent to communicate with other binturongs that this is their territory. The binturong has a unique scent that smells like cooked buttered popcorn, the scent comes from an oil gland under the tail that puts the scent out when they drag their tail through the branches of the trees. The scent communicates to other binturongs that may be looking for a mate or if they are a trespasser to leave the territory.
They also make lots of noises to communicate with each other, they will make a chuckling sound if they are happy and will let out a high pitched wail if they are unhappy. Some of the other sounds that they make are hisses, growls and grunts.
Binturongs can be vicious if they are cornered.
The real meaning of the binturongs name is not known because the language that its name came from is now extinct.
The binturong has a unique scent that smells like buttered popcorn.
They are able to turn their ankles backwards so that their claws can still grip the trees when they are climbing down headfirst.
Binturongs are also known as Asian bear cats and Malay civet cats.