Binturongs, also known as bearcats, are found in South and Southeast Asia. They have shaggy, dark brown coats, sharp teeth and claws. They spend most of their time climbing and perching in trees.

Physical Description

They look like mask-less raccoons with tufty whiskers and eyebrows. They have low, wide, muscular bodies. They have shaggy, dark brown coats that shade to black on their snouts, limbs and tails. They walk with their feet flat, like bears and humans. A leathery patch on the tip of their strong tail gives them extra traction while climbing. Binturongs are one of two carnivorous species with a prehensile tail (the other is the kinkajou).

Binturongs are also called bearcats but are not closely related to bears or cats. They are in the family Viverridae with other small cat-like mammals, including civets and fossas. They are the only members of the genus Arctic.

Size

Binturongs are about the size of a coyote. A binturong’s body is 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.09 meters) long with a tail nearly the length of its body. They weigh 24 to 79 pounds (11 to 36 kilograms). Females are larger than males. 

Native Habitat

Binturongs are found in the tropical forests of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Philippines, and Indonesia.

Lifespan

In the wild, binturongs live about 16 to 18 years. In human care, they can live to be 25 years old.

Communication

Binturongs use their distinctive scent to signal their presence to other binturongs and discourage predators. They are noisy creatures. They can snort, chuckle or even purr when they are pleased or content. They signal displeasure, fear or aggression with cat-like screams, hisses, low grunts and howls. Females in estrus call to attract mates.

Food/Eating Habits

Binturongs look like carnivores with sharp teeth and claws, but they mostly eat fruits and berries. When they do hunt, they prefer small animals, including fish, rodents, birds, worms and insects. They will also eat carrion (meat that another animal killed), eggs, and leaves. Some tropical forest seeds, like those of the strangling fig, have evolved to germinate better after having passed through a binturong’s digestive tract.

Sleep Habits

Binturongs are mostly nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. They spend most of their time climbing and perching in high tree branches. During the day, they can curl their strong tail around a branch and sleep hidden up in the trees.

Social Structure

Binturongs are usually solitary in the wild, coming together only to mate. Mothers will stay with their offspring until the young are big enough to fend for themselves, usually around 6 to 8 weeks old. However, mothers may also stay with their young until they are ready to breed at around 2.5 years old.

Reproduction and Development

Female binturongs are among the species known to exhibit embryonic diapause (or delayed implantation). This means they breed when a mate is available, but the fertilized egg does not attach to the uterine wall until days or months later (making them truly pregnant) when conditions are most favorable. Once a binturong does become pregnant, gestation lasts 90 to 92 days.

Binturongs usually give birth to two babies, called binlets, at a time. They are born with their eyes closed, and they cling to their mother’s fur for the first few days of their lives. They stay with their mother until they are independent — sometimes even longer.

Conservation Efforts

Like many forest animals, habitat loss and disturbance threaten binturong populations. Deforestation is especially problematic as it removes both their habitat and their main food sources. In some areas, binturongs are also hunted for meat and for the pet trade.

Help this Species

  • Reduce, reuse and recycle — in that order! Cut back on single-use goods, and find creative ways to reuse products at the end of their life cycle. Choose recycling over trash when possible.
  • Practice ecotourism by being an advocate for the environment when you’re on vacation. During your travels, support, visit or volunteer with organizations that protect wildlife. Shop smart too! Avoid buying products made from animals, which could support poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
  • Share the story of this animal with others. Simply raising awareness about this species can contribute to its overall protection.
  • Are you a student? Did you love what you learned about this animal? Make it the topic of your next school project, or start a conservation club at your school. You'll learn even more and share the importance of saving species with classmates and teachers, too.

Meet the Animals

A male binturong, named Hank, and a female binturong, named Lola, live on Claws & Paws Pathway.

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