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.

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.

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.

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.

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