Arctictis binturong


[bin-toor-awng, -ong]
The Binturong (Arctictis binturong), also known as the Asian Bearcat, the Palawan Bearcat, or simply the Bearcat, is a species of the family Viverridae, which includes the civets and genets. It is neither a bear nor a cat, and the real meaning of the original name is lost, as the local language that gave it is extinct. Its natural habitat is in trees of forest canopy in rainforest of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It is nocturnal and sleeps on branches. It eats primarily fruit, but also has been known to eat eggs, shoots, leaves, and small animals, such as rodents or birds. Deforestation has greatly reduced its numbers. When cornered, the Binturong can be vicious. The Binturong can make chuckling sounds when it seems to be happy and utter a high-pitched wail if annoyed. The Binturong can live over 20 years in captivity; one has been recorded to have lived almost 26 years.


Its bushy tail is fully prehensile, and acts as a fifth hand. Being burly and omnivorous, the Binturong is sometimes compared to a bear, but is closer in size to a small dog. Its average length ranges 60–96 cm (24–38 in), and average weight ranges between 9–14 kg (20–31 lb), although some exceptional individuals have been known to weigh 22 kg (50 lb) or more. The tail is nearly as long as the body with size ranging from 55–90 cm (22–36 in). The ears are small and rounded, and it has small eyes. It has coarse and thick black fur.


The estrous period of the Binturong is 81 days, with a gestation of 91 days. The Binturong is one of approximately 100 species of mammal believed by many husbandry experts to be capable of embryonic diapause, or delayed implantation, which allows the female of the species to time parturition to coincide with favorable environmental conditions. Typical birthing is of two offspring, but up to six may occur.


The Binturong climbs trees and leaps from branch to branch, using its tail and claws to cling while searching for food. It can rotate its hind legs backwards so that its claws still have a grip when climbing down a tree head first. The Binturong also uses its tail to communicate, through the scent gland located under it. The scent of Binturong musk is often compared to that of warm popcorn and cornbread. This comparison was made by zoologist Ron McGill on the Today Show, when he presented a bearcat along with several other animals. The Binturong brushes its tail against trees and howls to announce its presence to other Binturongs.

The Orang Asli of Malaysia keep Binturong as pets.

Ecological significance

The Binturong is the only known animal capable of digesting the seed coat of the Strangler Fig, a very important rainforest tree. This makes the Binturong a uniquely critical animal for seed dispersal.


Six subspecies are recognized (A. b. albifrons, A. b. binturong, A. b. kerkhoveni, A. b. memglaensis, A. b. penicillatus, and A. b. whitei). The Palawan Binturong (A. b. whitei) of the Philippines is vulnerable due to habitat destruction and poaching for its medicinal uses, its fur and its demand in the pet trade.


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