THE BINTURONG

It is also called bearcat, but it is neither a cat, nor a bear, it is a binturong! It is part of the family Viverridae, just as the civet or the European genet.

Scientific name

Arctictis binturong

Distribution / Habitat

Southeast Asia, in large unlogged forests

Population size
Unknown
Body size (from nose to tail)

Ranging from 120cm to 180cm

Weight

From 9kg up to 24kg

Diet

Omnivorous. 80% of fruit. Small prey. 

Conservation status

Vulnerable (IUCN 2016)

Description

Credit E. Maizeray
An adult binturong measures between 60 and 90cm.
It weighs from 9 to 24kg.

The color of its fur ranges from dark gray to light gray and it can include brownish hair. Its ears are round, with white tips, and are tufted just like lynx ears. Its eyes are chocolate brown. It has semi-retractile claws that allow it to climb trees and easily move from one branch to another. The binturong also uses its tail for balance. This tail is prehensile, which means that the animal can grab things with it or use it to hang from branches. An adult binturong measures between 60 and 90cm, plus up to 90 cm if you include its tail8. Its weight can range from 9 to 24 kg6.

It has a popcorn-like scent, which comes from the secretions from its perineal glands

It is known to smell like buttered popcorn. This is due to a compound in its urine, which could allow it to communicate with other individuals of its species by giving information such as its sex and reproductive status3.
The binturong is arboreal, which means it spends most of its life in trees, but it has also been observed on the ground, most probably because of gaps in the canopy9&12. It is a nocturnal animal2, but studies have reported cases of activity during daytime12.

Credit E. Maizeray

Geographic distribution

The binturong lives in Southeast Asia, in large unlogged forests.

The binturong is a mammal that lives in primary and secondary forests of Southeast Asia.

It can be found in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia (on Java, Kalimantan, Borneo, and Sumatra), Malaysia (on Sarawak Island, Sabah (Borneo) and the Malaysian Peninsula), Myanmar, Nepal and the Philippines (on Palawan Island only)11.

Diet

Credit E. Maizeray
Its diet is comprised of 80% fruit.

Although it belongs to the order Carnivora because of its dental features, it is not carnivorous, but rather omnivorous. It can feed on rodents and birds, but the majority of its diet is made up of fruit. It particularly likes figs, which grow on trees of the genus Ficus7&10. In a way, it is one of the most frugivorous carnivores10.

When eating a fruit, the binturong swallows it whole, with seeds or kernels. The digested seeds sprout faster1 and are dispersed as the binturong moves across the forest. For this reason, it has an important role in the regeneration of the forests.

Figs - Image by Drago Gazdik from Pixabay

Predation

Despite their teeth and claws, binturongs are likely to be predated on by tigers (Panthera tigris) and dholes (Cuon alpinus) in Thailand12. In the Malaysian Peninsula, a case of predation on a binturong by a clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) has been reported4.

Tiger - Image by Edo Emmerig from Pixabay

Dhole - Image by A. Petry

Clouded leopard - Image by skeeze from Pixabay

Conservation

It is mainly threatened by deforestation and illegal wildlife trade, as it can be sold as a pet or used for its fur and meat11. This is why it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Red List11.

Deforestation - Image by Edo Emmerig from Pixabay

Trapped binturong - Langogan, Palawan island, Philippines. Credit P. Kayser

Several zoological institutions in the world are taking part in binturong conservation, particularly in the context of captive breeding programs, such as the European Endangered Species Programs (also called EEPs) created by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). Below you can find a map of zoological institutions that are partners of ABConservation and are participating in such conservation programs.

You fell in love with the binturong and want to help us? Make a donation!

Donations are of precious help for the implementation of our various programs in France and the Philippines. For more information about our projects, visit our projects page.
 

Credit E. Maizeray

References

1 Colon C.P, Campos-Arceiz A., 2013, The impact of gut passage by binturongs (Arctictis binturong) on seed germination, The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 61, 417-421

2 Grassman Jr. L.I., Tewes M.E., Silvy N.J., 2005, Ranging, habitat use and activity patterns of binturong Arctictis binturong and Yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula in north-central Thailand, Wildlife Biology, 11, 49-57, https://doi.org/10.2981/0909-6396(2005)11[49:RHUAAP]2.0.CO;2

3 Green L.K., Wallen T.W., Moresco A., Goodwin T.E., Drea C.M., 2016, Reproductive endocrive atterns and volatile urinary compounds of Arctictis biturong: discovering why bearcats smell like popcorn, The Science of Nature, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-016-1361-4

4 Lam W.Y, Hedges L., Clements G.R, 2014, First record of a clouded leopard predating on a binturong, Catnews, 60, 33

5 Lambert J.E., Fellner V., McKenney E., Hartstone-Rose A., 2014, Binturong (Arctictis binturong) and Kinkajou (Potos flavus) digestive strategy:  Implication for interpreting Frugivory in Carnivora and Primates, PLuS ONE, https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0105415

6 Moresco A., and Larsen R.S., 2003, Medetomidine-ketamine-butorphanol anesthetic combinations in binturongs (Arctictis binturong),  Journal Zoo Wildlife Medicine Off. Publ. Am. Assoc. Zoo Vet. 34, 346–351.

7Nakabayashi M., Ahmad A.H., Kohshima S., 2014, Fruit selection of a binturong (Arctictis binturong) by focal animal sampling in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, Mammalia, https://doi.org/10.1515/mammalia-2015-0009

8 Pocock R.I.,1933,  The rarer Genera of Oriental Viverridæ, Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 103, 1016–1031

9 Semiadi G. et al, 2016, Predicted distribution of the binturong Arctictis binturong (Mammalia: Carnivora: Viverridae) on Borneo, The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 33, 96-102

10 Shanahan, M., 2000. Ficus Seed Dispersal Guilds: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Implications. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leeds, UK. 210 pp.Shanahan, M., S. So, S. G. Compton & R. Corlett, 2001. Fig-eating by vertebrate frugivores: A global review. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 76: 529–572.

11 Willcox D.H.A., Chutipong W., Gray T.N.E., Cheyne S., Semiadi G., Rahman H., Coudrat C.N.Z., Jennings A., Ghimirey Y., Ross J., Fredriksson G. & Tilker A. 2016. Arctictis binturong. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41690A45217088. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T41690A45217088.en. Downloaded on 25 November 2019.

12 Zaw T., Htun S., Po S.H.T, Maung M., Lynam A.J, Latt K.T, Duckworth J.W, 2008, Status and distribution of small carnivores in Myanmar, Small Carnivore Conservation, 38, 2-28

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