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Arctictis binturong; aka the bearcat
How this animal got the alternative name "bearcat" is unknown, as it resembles neither bears nor cats.
The binturong is a heavyset animal with short, stout legs. The largest member of the civet family, it is 2 to 3 feet long, not counting a tail almost as long as the body, and weighs up to 44 pounds; females are about 20 percent larger than males. Its long, coarse, and shaggy fur is black sprinkled with brown or gray on the tips of the hairs. The hair on the tail is longer than that on the body. Tufts of long, dark hair protrude from the backs of each small, rounded ear. Long, white whiskers that are thick and sensitive are found both on their checks and above their reddish brown eyes.
The binturong is one of only two carnivores to have a prehensile tail (the other being the kinkajou). The tail is not strong enough to hold the animal's weight, but is agile enough to be used for balance while in the trees.
Like other members of the civet family, the binturong has scent glands which are located just under it's tail. These glands are used to mark trees and foliage to outline an individual's territory. What makes the glands very unusual is that the odor they produce smells much like buttered popcorn, and that smell is produced from the moment the binturong is born.
Distribution and Habitat
Binturongs are found from northeastern India and Bangladesh through Southeast Asia, including Yunnan and Guangxi in China, to Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They are found exclusively in densely forested regions. While old growth forest is preferred, some populations have had to adjust to living in secondary forests.
Although fruit makes up the majority of its diet, the binturong is a good hunter, stalking roosting birds, insects, or small mammals and striking with unexpected speed. It has also been seen catching ducks and diving for fish. An opportunistic feeder, the binturong will also eat carrion, eggs, tree shoots, and leaves.
Binturongs appear to mate throughout the year, but there is an increase in births from January to March. While a monogamous system is most likely, the male seldom helps the female raise the young. Groups of binturongs in the wild usually only include the mother with immature females.
Gestation lasts 91 days and the typical litter size is 2, but there can be up to 6. In captivity the young are weaned at 6 to 8 weeks, and sexual maturity is reached at 28-30 months.
Although binturongs spend most of their time in the trees, they have a high level of ground activity as they are too large to jump from tree to tree. Somewhat awkward on the ground, they are fairly agile in the trees, and can even walk along a branch while hanging upside down. They can rotate their hind legs backwards, so they can grip trees when climbing down head first.
Binturongs are solitary and tend to stay away from each other, but they do not appear to be territorial.
Although binturongs are primarily nocturnal, they can occasionally be seen sunning themselves while sprawled out on a branch.
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This page was last updated on September 19, 2017.