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A new encounter and fascination with an animal that I came across at “Taman Safari – Bali” – the Binturong!

I’m not quite sure how this adorable looking animal escaped my attention or my knowledge over the years, but as soon as I saw it and learnt that it was a ‘Binturong’, I couldn’t wait to start researching and finding out more about this beautiful furry creature!

Here’s what I found:

The binturong is a medium sized carnivore that can be found in dense jungles of South-East Asia including; China, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Phillipines, the island of Borneo and Indonesia. Although rare to find in the thick jungles now a days!

The binturong belongs to the same family as Civets, Genets, Mangooses and Fossa, and share a number of similarities with them, such as; a long snout and having more teeth than most other carnivorous mammals. The binturong basically looks like a blend of a bear and a cat, and is also known as the ‘Bearcat’ or ‘Asian Bearcat’!

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The binturong can grow more than a metre long from their snout to the tip of their tale, with females being up to 20% bigger and heavier than their male counterparts. They have very long, coarse and shaggy fur which varies from dark brown to black. The binturong (along with the Kinkajou of South America) is also unique among carnivorous mammals as they have a prehensile (able to grasp, take hold of something) tip to their tails which acts almost like another arm or leg (used for balance and support) helping them with both climbing and gripping onto branches to give the binturong more stability. They can use their tails to hang onto tree branches like a monkey!

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It is said that the binturong is generally a solitary and nocturnal animal that spends the majority of its time moving about slowly and cautiously amongst the trees. As the binturong is quite large, they can’t leap from one tree to another and thus must climb down to the ground to go from tree to tree.

Surprisingly, the binturong is also known to both swim and dive well and is said to often spend time in the water to simply cool down in the heat of the sun. It has also been reported that the binturong hunt for fish in the water too!

The binturong are known to be vocal animals and they make a number of sounds to communicate with other binturong and to warn off other species that may be a threat. They apparently make chuckling sounds when they seem to be happy and appear to make a high-pitched wail if they are aggravated.

The binturong is actually known to be startlingly passive towards people {perhaps like a cat?} and has been easily domesticated and kept as an exotic pet all over the world! However, sadly it is this kind of industry, being captured and sold into the pet trade, that along with other factors, has aided in the rapid decline of the binturong. Not only having been over-exploited as pets and zoo attractions, in medicines – the binturong have also been trapped and caught to be sold into the Chinese medicine market, where a number of their body parts are used in traditional remedies, and for food, the binturong is also subjected to devastating loss of vast areas of its natural habitat {mainly in the form of deforestation} which has pushed the small remaining populations into smaller pockets of land. Seeming as the binturong needs dense jungle to successfully survive, plantations provide no sanctuary in their dwindling habitat.

The binturong is rarely seen in the wild, these days, with just a handful of sightings having been reported over the last decade. The binturong is listed by the IUCN {International Union for Conservation of Nature} as a species that is ‘Vulnerable’ from extinction in its natural environment in the near future. Human encroachment on their historical habitats has meant that numbers have declined drastically, along with their capture in many parts of South-east Asia, which has led to a 30% decline in binturong population numbers in the last 30 years.

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