Binturongs are found in Southeast Asia, specifically Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. They are also found more rarely on the Indonesian islands of Java, Sumatra, Nias, Raiu, and the Bangka islands. (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Cosson, et al., 2007; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Binturongs are primarily arboreal and live in the canopies of tall, dense, tropical forests. In Lao, they inhabit extensive evergreen forests and in the Philippines they dwell in primary and secondary lowland forests with grasslands (Widmann et al., 2008). They spend most of their time climbing in trees and they even sleep in the branches (San Diego Zoo, 2012). (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Grassman Jr., et al., 2005; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Binturonga are the largest species in the Viverridae family, weighing 9 to 20 kg (Cosson et al., 2007). Their body length is 61 to 96 cm with an almost equal tail length of 56 to 89 cm (Nowak, 1999). Females are 20% larger than males (San Diego Zoo, 2012). Long, coarse, black fur covers their bodies and sometimes has gray tips. Their faces have slightly lighter fur and white whiskers. Long ear tufts protrude from small rounded ears. Their eyes are small and reddish brown. Binturongs are one of two carnivorous species that have a prehensile tail. Their third and fourth digits are syndactylous (Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981). (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Cosson, et al., 2007; Nowak, 1999; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981)
Little research has been done regarding the mating systems of binturongs. Michael Zwirn reported in 2011 that the father of a mated pair remained with the mother and young after birth, so a monogamous system is most likely. However, the male doesn't always stay and help the female raise the young. Groups of binturongs usually only include the mother with immature females (Grassman Jr. et al., 2005). Binturongs are generally solitary unless females are in estrus, in which case they make a call that attracts males (Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981). Males often act defensively towards females unless they are in estrus. (Grassman Jr., et al., 2005; Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981; Zwirn, 2011)
There doesn't seem to be a reproductive season for binturongs, because they mate throughout the year. There is, however, an increase in births from January to March, which could be a result of delayed implantation (Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981). Gestation lasts 91 days and the typical litter size is 2, but there can be up to 6 (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009). Females reach sexual maturity at about 30 months and males reach sexual maturity at about 28 months (Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981). (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981)
Binturongs are born altritially with an average weight of 142 g and their eyes sealed (San Diego Zoo, 2012). The young remain hidden in their mother’s fur for the first few days and are weaned at about 6 to 8 weeks (San Diego Zoo, 2012). Males do not always provide parental care, but they sometimes do until the young are independent. Females will always provide care until the young are independent, and sometimes continue to live in a group with the offspring even after they are independent (Grassman Jr. et al., 2005). (Grassman Jr., et al., 2005; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Zwirn, 2011)
Binturongs are mostly solitary and tend to evade each other, but aren't strictly territorial. They spend the majority of their time climbing, but also have a high level of ground activity as they are too large to jump from tree to tree (Widmann et al., 2008). Binturongs have also been documented swimming and diving in order to obtain food (Cosson et al., 2007). Their prehensile tail acts as another limb as they climb slowly and carefully. Their hind legs can rotate backwards to enhance their back claws’ ability to grasp as they climb trunks. When do they walk, they amble with flat feet (San Diego Zoo, 2012). Binturongs are largely thought to be nocturnal, but they have also been described as crepuscular, and occasionally diurnal. Their activity peaks between 4:01 to 6:00 and 20:00 to 22:00 according to Grassman et al. (2005) who also described reduced activity from midday to late afternoon. (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Cosson, et al., 2007; Nowak, 1999; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Binturongs have a mean annual range size of 6.2 square kilometers with a mean overlap of 35% (Grassman Jr., Tewes, and Silvy, 2005). The overlap of ranges provides support that binturongs aren't territorial, but just avoid each other. (Grassman Jr., et al., 2005; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Binturongs communicate primarily through olfactory means. Both sexes have sent glands on each side of their anuses and females have another pair of sent glands around their vulva (Cosson et al., 2007). These sent glands mark trees as they climb and let other binturongs know where they have been. The scent created is described as that of corn chips or popcorn. Binturongs also use vocal communication such as loud howls, low grunts, and hisses (San Diego Zoo, 2012). Females receptive to copulations make a purring sound (Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981). Males and females produce a chuckling noise when they are happy and a high-pitched wail if they are upset (San Diego Zoo, 2012). Binturongs are also visually adapted to see in a wide range of light as they have elliptical pupils that adjust readily (Grassman Jr. et al., 2005). (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Cosson, et al., 2007; Grassman Jr., et al., 2005; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981)
Binturongs are in the order Carnivora, but are primarily frugivorous. They eat fruits such as those of the strangler fig tree (Ficus altissima). They are also good hunters and their prey consists of many small animals such as insects, birds, fish, and rodents. As opportunistic feeders, binturongs will also eat carrion, eggs, tree shoots, and leaves. (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Cosson, et al., 2007; Grassman Jr., et al., 2005; Wemmer and Murtaugh, 1981; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Binturongs are very rarely prey items. As relatively large carnivores, there are few animals that can kill them. Two species of known predators are tigers and dholes. During a study conducted within binturong range, 172 dhole scats examined contained no evidence of binturongs (Grassman Jr. et al., 2005). (Grassman Jr., et al., 2005)
Binturongs are often described as a keystone species within their ecosystems. They are the only known disperser of strangler fig (Ficus altissima) seeds as they have the digestive enzymes required to soften its seed coat. This seed dispersal is very crucial for the persistence of these forest ecosystems. Also, as predators, they may influence the populations of their prey species. (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Cosson, et al., 2007; Gupta and Dutt, 1980; Le-Van-Hoa, 1969; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Many zoos have or desire binturongs for education and static display. In the wild, binturongs prey on rodents and provide humans with rodent control. Binturongs can also be used by humans for their fur and meat, which is considered a delicacy in some countries. It is also reported that binturongs are relatively easily domesticated and sometimes kept as pets (Nowak, 1999). (Carnivore Preservation Trust, 2009; Nowak, 1999; San Diego Zoo, 2012)
Populations of binturongs have declined more than 30% over the last 30 years (Widmann et al., 2008). The main threats to binturongs include deforestation, wildlife trade, and hunting (Cosson et al., 2007). Deforestation and habitat degradation is most severe in the south of their range (Widmann et al., 2008). Pet trade, fur trade, human consumption, and non-specific hunting also cause decreases in population through poaching (San Diego Zoo, 2012). Binturongs are listed as Critically Endangered on the China Red List and are protected in Malaysia (Widmann et al., 2008). However, current protection of binturongs doesn't satisfy their needs. Better enforcement of laws against poaching and habitat degradation needs to be instated to protect the diminishing species (Cosson et al., 2007). (Cosson, et al., 2007; San Diego Zoo, 2012; Widmann, et al., 2008)
Molly Schleif (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Laura Podzikowski (editor), Special Projects.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
flesh of dead animals.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
active at dawn and dusk
in mammals, a condition in which a fertilized egg reaches the uterus but delays its implantation in the uterine lining, sometimes for several months.
At about the time a female gives birth (e.g. in most kangaroo species), she also becomes receptive and mates. Embryos produced at this mating develop only as far as a hollow ball of cells (the blastocyst) and then become quiescent, entering a state of suspended animation or embryonic diapause. The hormonal signal (prolactin) which blocks further development of the blastocyst is produced in response to the sucking stimulus from the young in the pouch. When sucking decreases as the young begins to eat other food and to leave the pouch, or if the young is lost from the pouch, the quiescent blastocyst resumes development, the embryo is born, and the cycle begins again. (Macdonald 1984)
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
union of egg and spermatozoan
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
a species whose presence or absence strongly affects populations of other species in that area such that the extirpation of the keystone species in an area will result in the ultimate extirpation of many more species in that area (Example: sea otter).
parental care is carried out by males
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
breeding takes place throughout the year
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Cosson, L., L. Grassman Jr., A. Zubaid, S. Vellayan, A. Tillier, G. Veron. 2007. Genetic diversity of captive binturongs (Arctictis binturong, Viverridae, Carnivora): implications for conservation. Journal of Zoology, 271: 386–395. Accessed August 14, 2012 at http://www.aseanbiodiversity.info/Abstract/51011947.pdf.
Grassman Jr., L., M. Tewes, N. Silvy. 2005. Ranging, habitat use and activity patterns of binturong Arctictis binturong and yellow-throated marten Martes flavigula in north-central Thailand. Wildlife Biology, 11: 49-57.
Gupta, P., S. Dutt. 1980. Tetrapetalonema in a bear cat (Arcticus binturong). Indian Journal of Parasitology, 4: 165.
Le-Van-Hoa, 1969. A new ancylostomatid, Arthrostoma guilhoni n. sp., a nematode parasite of the carnivore Artictis binturong in South Vietnam. Bull Soc Pathol Exot Filiales, 62: 1101-1106.
Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
San Diego Zoo, 2012. "Mammal: Binturong" (On-line). Accessed August 14, 2012 at http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-binturong.html.
Wemmer, C., J. Murtaugh. 1981. Copulatory behavior and reproduction in the binturong, Arctictis binturong. Journal of Mammalogy, 26: 342-352.
Widmann, P., J. De Leon, J. Duckworth. 2008. "Arctictis binturong" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed August 14, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/41690/0.
Zwirn, M. 2011. "Wildlife rehabilitation and release - ensuring the health of animals after release" (On-line). Wildlife Alliance. Accessed August 23, 2012 at http://www.wildlifealliance.org/blog/2011/5/5/wildlife-rehabilitation-and-release-ensuring-the-health-of-a.html.