The monotypic genus Arctictis belongs the the order Carnivora and subfamily Paradoxurinae. This genus has one extant species, Arctictis binturong, also known as the bearcat due to their thick fur and coarse, black hair. This is one of the largest species found in family Viverridae, with a long/heavy torso and short legs. Found in southeast Asia, this genus is distinct due to morphological traits such as perineal scent glands, syndactyly of the third and fourth digits of the hind foot, and a prehensile tail. These traits determine the phylogenetic position of binturongs within the viverrid subfamily Paradoxurinae. This genus is distinct from other genera in subfamily Paradoxurinae due to its geographic range and preferred habitats.

Geographic Range

Binturongs are native to south and southeast Asia, occupying tall forests within Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. The species are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to their declines in populations due to logging and deforestation efforts for agriculture.


Binturongs are typically solitary but have been recorded traveling in small groups consisting of a male, a female, and their offspring. They are nocturnal with peak activity levels occurring around dusk. This species is arboreal, climbing up tree trunks with the assistance of their paws and prehensile tail. Due to their large size, binturongs do not swing or leap; instead, they descend to the ground to move from tree to tree. Due to their frugivore diet, this species is found near fig trees. Because they are dependent on the forest, binturongs occupy canopies of dense forests and shrubs. In the heat, they can occasionally be seen in the water, although they are not great swimmers.

Systematic and Taxonomic History

Binturongs were named by Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1822 after an individual was first discovered in Malaysia. The genus Arctictis is a monophyletic group consisting of one species, A. binturong. Due to similar morphological traits, this species was placed in family Viverridae, specifically in subfamily Paradoxurinae. This subfamily consists of five genera, including A. binturong and palm civets. Members of this subfamily are well-developed climbers, have syndactyly of their third and fourth digits, are frugivorous, have a prehensile tail, and have scent glands, which they use for communication. These morphological traits helped determine the phylogenetic placement of A.binturong.

Binturongs are poorly studied due to their complex distribution in the dense forests they occupy. There are six subspecies recognized in this genus: A. binturong albifrons, A. binturong binturong, A. binturong kerkhoveni, A. binturong menglaensis, A. binturong penicillatus, and A. binturong whitei. Binturongs remain the sole species within genus Arctictis. Subspecies were identified based on distinct regional inhabitance. Recently, mitochondrial markers have been used to determine the systematic statuses of the subspecies. Museum and zoo specimens have assisted this research.

  • Synapomorphies
    • Frugivorous
    • Prehensile tail
    • Scent glands
    • Syndactyly

Physical Description

Individuals in this genus are known as bearcats based off of the morphological traits they possess: a stout body and short limbs, followed by a large prehensile tail almost the size of their torso (weighing around 20kg). Thick, coarse, and long fur with melanistic coloration separates this genus from other organisms within family Viverridae. They also have short muzzles with thick, white whiskers. The tooth dentition found in this species matches that of other carnivores, consisting of six incisors, two canines, and six molars. As a quadrupedal species, they have syndactyly of their third and forth digits. Their hind legs are well-adapted for climbing, as the third and fourth claws are joined together, giving them greater leverage when grasping branches. Due to their larger size, these individuals cannot swing/jump from branch to branch.

Sexual dimorphism is present, with females being larger than males. Scent glands are used mark territories and mate. Their scent has been described to smell like popcorn, which is due to the bacteria in their intestines.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger


Usually, solitary males and females only encounter one another to mate. Research suggests a monogamous system, as the male remains with the mother and young to assist in raising his offspring. In rare occasions, females will group together with their young and raise the offspring together. Both males and females reach sexual maturity at about 2.5 years of age. Mating occurs all year long with increased mating between the months of January and March.

Females purr to indicate her intent to mate with males. The mating pair sexually reproduce through internal fertilization. Gestation typically lasts 91 days. Females in this genus are one of very few mammals capable of delayed implantation. This reproductive strategy delays implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus, allowing birth to occur when the mother decides that resources are optimal. This species is viviparous.

Both males and females exhibit parental investment. Females give birth and provide care for their offspring 6-8 weeks after birth. In this time, the offsprings' eyes are closed and they tend to take shelter within their mother's thick fur. In some cases, females are known to live with their young even after they have reached independence. The father is usually present until the young are independent; however, research has found that in some cases, males do not participate in parental care at all, leaving once the offspring is born.


In the wild, binturongs have been known to live up to 10-15 years of age. In captivity, they tend to live longer, with the longest-living individual having died at 27 years. Over the years, there has been a decline in wild population numbers due to deforestation and logging. This decreases binturongs' lifespans due to the reliance they have on dense forests for reproduction, food, shelter, and protection.


Being solitary, this arboreal species spends most of the day curled up in the trees. Most activity takes place early in the morning and at dusk. Their large body sizes do not allow them to be agile enough to jump/swing between trees. Instead, binturongs climb up tree trunks with the help of their retractable claws and prehensile tail to find a branch to rest on. As previously mentioned, binturongs are usually solitary, but it is also common to observe a mate pair and their offspring living together.

This species is known to be very vocal, communicating with loud screams and cackling sounds. Binturongs tend to be very vocal when aggravated; they warn off predators and competitors using auditory cues and their scent glands. The scent glands in their tails also deter competitors from crossing into territories.

Binturongs usually clean themselves by licking and scratching their fur. With a tail almost as large as their torso, they tend to rely on it a lot. They use it for balance, grip, and communication. This species is sympatric with other civets in family Paradoxurine. When temperatures peak, it is common to see binturongs in the water.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Binturongs are in order Carnivora, however, this genus has a frugivorous diet. Preferred fruits mainly consist of figs from the strangler tree, Ficus aurea. Since Binturongs are good hunters/swimmers, and they have been observed to have a wide range of prey options. As opportunistic feeders, they can prey on birds, rodents, eggs, and fish, ultimately classifying them as omnivores.


Due to their large body sizes, binturongs do not have many predators. Larger animals like tigers and snakes are their biggest threats due to tigers/snakes preying on young/small binturongs. Similar to many other species of concern, humans are the biggest threat to this species. Habitat loss due to deforestation is the leading cause of binturong population declines. Many binturongs are also caught in traps and sold in Chinese medicine markets or wildlife trades, further diminishing wild populations.

Ecosystem Roles

Since binturongs' diets mainly consist of fruits, they play a major role in seed dispersal within their ecosystems. This mode of dispersal is especially important for the strangler fig, Ficus aure. As binturongs eat the figs, the fruit is digested and excreted. In the digestive process, enzymes from binturongs' intestines/gut help the strangler fig seeds germinate. Some researchers have considered binturongs as a keystone species due to their seed dispersal roles.

Mutualist Species
  • Ficus aure

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

As the natural habitats of binturongs continue to decrease in the wild due to deforestation and logging, most of the binturong populations can be found in zoos. This has allowed the public to learn about them and the causes of their rapid population declines in the wild. Researchers gain a better understanding of binturongs' behavior in captivity by observing their reproduction, communication, and social relationships. Many countries participate in the wildlife trade by buying binturongs for their meat and fur, both of which turn a large profit. In some countries, binturongs are kept as pets.

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • ecotourism
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of binturongs on humans.

Conservation Status

Binturongs are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Over the years, the dense forests binturongs occupy have suffered from deforestation and logging. Binturongs have also fallen victim to the global wildlife trade, causing wild populations to further decline in numbers. Binturongs once claimed a wide range in the forests of southeast Asia, but today, only small populations occupy small, fragmented regions. Most of the binturong population is now in captivity in an effort to increase the population via captive breeding in facilities like zoos. Recently, binturongs from the Avilon Zoo (formerly known as Avilon Montalban Zoological Park) in the Philippines were brought to several zoos in Europe to contribute to the captive breeding efforts and are used for genetic sequencing for systematic and conservational use.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Chanel Archuleta (author), Colorado State University, Sydney Collins (editor), Colorado State University.



uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

delayed fertilization

a substantial delay (longer than the minimum time required for sperm to travel to the egg) takes place between copulation and fertilization, used to describe female sperm storage.


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


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.

keystone species

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).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

pet trade

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.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


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