The Binturong or Asian Bearcat: The Only Mammal that Smells Like Popcorn
Asian Bearcat: The Binturong
The Asian Bearcat
The Binturong, also called the Asian Bearcat, is neither bear nor cat. It actually belongs to the same family as Mongooses, Fossa and Civets. The Binturong belongs to the family Viverridae and the genus Arctitis. Newborn Binturongs are very helpless for the first several months of life but are able to spray a noxious mist similar to that of a skunk. Once Binturongs age beyond a few months however, they become very capable of fierce fighting and are able to defend themselves handily. This frugivorous (eats mainly fruits) mammal can be found in its natural habitat of Southeast Asia. The Asian Bearcat is an opportunistic feeder that will also hunt small insects and other live prey in addition to its primarily fruit based diet. The Binturong was once found with heavy populations in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, India and China. Binturongs generally grow to about a meter in length, have dark grey to black hair and are able to rotate their rear hips to maintain a grip on trees while climbing down head first.
Binturong Habitat and Distribution
Binturongs were once found throughout Asia proper and Asia minor. Their populations are now severely dwindling and have continued downward over the years due to mining, deforestation and capturing for the purpose of domestication. Though Binturongs are still found throughout these areas, sighting one is a rare occurrence. Areas where deforestation is not as pronounced have been able to support higher populations of the Bearcat, though they are still endangered in these areas due to hunting, capture for domestication and ever encroaching human populations. There is no area remaining on the planet where the Binturong is not considered to be both rare and endangered.
The Binturong is a nocturnal animal that is usually observed as solitary. Unfortunately so many Binturongs have been captured as pets or killed for pelts and food that little research has been done on its behavior in the wild. We do know the Binturong spends much of its time cautiously prowling the forest and jungles in search of fruits, foliage and prey. This is often done from the relative safety of the trees. Binturongs are excellent climbers, sporting retractable claws, slender and flexible bodies and even a prehensile tail that can act as an extra hand while climbing. Though most often found wandering the forests alone, the Binturong can sometimes be seen in groups consisting of adult male and female mates along with their young. Similar to Mongoose and other species within the Viverridae family, the female is always the dominant adult in the group.
Interesting Binturong Facts
- As with many other members of its genus and family, the Binturong has scent glands it uses to mark trees and foliage. These glands are located under its tail and secrete a musk that is said to smell like popcorn. Binturong newborns have the same delicious smell throughout their bodies for several weeks until their scent glands develop.
- Though the Binturong is capable of fiercely defending itself, its young and its territory, it is mysteriously passive when in contact with humans. This unfortunate trait has made the Binturong very easy to both capture and domesticate. Households throughout Asia, Europe and the rest of the world keep Binturongs as exotic pets.
- Binturongs are believed to live about 10 years in the wild. In captivity the Bearcat can live much longer. One such captive specimen was said to have lived to 26 years old!