Binturong

The unusual-sounding name of the binturong originates from a native language that died out some time ago, and its actual meaning is unknown.

Also known as the bearcat, the binturong lives mainly off the ground in its rainforest home. Its diet ensures its significance in the ecology here, by dispersing indigestible seeds passed out in its droppings. Binturongs have a peculiar body odour, said to resemble the smell of popcorn. They scent-mark their territory with a special gland beneath the tail.

During the day, it sleeps up in the trees and emerges at night to climb slowly, but skilfully, among the branches, searching for fruit and other plant matter. Although they are good climbers, they move slowly and carefully through the branches, and have never been observed to make leaps. They are the only carnivores, to have prehensile tails, which they use when climbing.

The binturong has very long, black, coarse fur, often tipped with grey or buff colours. It has conspicuous tufts of long, straight fur on the backs of its ears, which project well beyond the tips.

They are easy to domesticate and make affectionate pets. They can be active both night and day, and although they are usually solitary, one or two adults are sometimes seen together with young. Like so many species, binturongs are declining because of habitat destruction.

After a gestation of 90 to 92 days, the female produces a litter of 1 or 2 young.

Distribution: Occurs in India, east to China and the Philippines, and southwards via Laos, Vietnam and Thailand to Indonesia, where it is found on various islands such as Sumatra, Java and Borneo.

Habitat: Thick forests.

Weight: 13 - 27 kg (29 - 60 lb); females are heavier.

Length: 115 - 186 cm (45 - 73 in); body and tail are of similar lengths.

Maturity: 3 years.

Gestation Period: 84 - 91 days; sometimes embryonic development is delayed.

Breeding: Normally 1 - 2, but can be up to 6; weaning occurs from 3.5 months.

Food: Omnivorous, eating mainly fruit and vegetation, rodents, birds and their eggs.

Lifespan: 15 - 20 years; 25 in captivity.

Status: Vulnerable.

Feet

Binturongs grip with their claws when coming down a tree, when their ankles are directed backwards.

Coat

Long and shaggy, the coat helps protect against the rain.

Tail

The binturong is unique in the Old World in having a prehensile tail.

EASY LIVING

Slow-moving, binturongs are largely nocturnal by nature, and will sleep in the branches during the day, often sunning themselves.

The prehensile tail serves as another hand for grasping branches.

Gallery of Binturong