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Friday, August 5, 2016

Cute Animal Feature - Popcorn Scented Binturong

What strange but cute animal has a face similar to a cat, the build of a small bear, and a long tail like a monkeys? It’s called a binturong, more commonly known as a bearcat. The binturong has captured the hearts of many people because of their adorable face, and their strange scent that smells very similarly to a favorite human snack. They’re native to the rainforest of Southeast Asia and are rarely seen in the wild since they live high above the canopies and hardly ever come down. They’re robust animals, growing to be 2-3 feet long (double that if you include the tail) and between 25 and 50 pounds.

Below are 10 facts about the binturong to get to know this lovable, exotic creature better.
They’re not cats or bears

Although they’re called binturong s, they’re actually no where near related to cats or bears. The binturong  is categorised under the Viverridae family, which is a classification of an ancient group of small to medium sized mammals that are native to the Old World (eastern hemisphere). binturong s are actually more closely related to genets and civets. They’re taxonomy is also one of the most divers of the carnivores, consisting of 66 species found all over Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, and Southeast Asia.

Fruit loving carnivores

Although the Binturong is a carnivore, its diet is actually mostly composed of fruits. In the wild, the binturong  lives of a diet based on a variety of food, including fruits (especially the strangler fig), small mammals, birds, fish, small invertebrates, leaves and plant shoots, eggs, and carrion. Those living in captivity are often give food like bananas, apples, tomatoes, yams, carrots, leaves, ground meat, and even dog food (you’d think they’d prefer cat food).

What’s in a name?

Where the animal’s name originated is still unknown. Researchers say that the language where the word “binuturong” comes from is now extinct.  However, it’s most likely from one of the native groups who have lived in the Southeast Asian region. We’re just guessing it means something close to “buttered popcorn”.

Popcorn scent

Speaking of buttered popcorn, for some reason, the binturong  actually smells like buttered popcorn. Like the members of the  Viverridae family, binturong s have scent glands which are found right under their tail. They use their scent to mark their territory, and their tails basically act like a mop that spreads their scent as they make their way around. Although they smell the the movies to us, other binturong s actually pick up this scent as a message that another binturong  already owns this territory. Their scents also help female and male binturong s find each other during mating season.

They’re noisy

These little guys actually make a lot of noise to communicate and express themselves. Happy binturongs would chuckle, however an irritated one would make a growl fiercely or high-pitched wail. When they’re hunting, they would periodically make low grunts and hissing sounds. And when a female  binturong  is looking for a mate, she’d purr like a cat.

Tree dwellers

For an animal that can weigh up to 25 and 50 pounds, the binturong actually prefers to stay on top of trees. They’re skilled climbers and move through the forest canopy, moving from one branch to another. Because of their size, they can’t leap. They use their strong feet and semi-retractable claws to get a good hold on tree branches. Their hind legs can even rotate backwards so their claws still have a good grip when climbing down a tree head-first.  Binturongs even sleep high in tree branches, curling up with their heads tucked under their tails.
They have prehensile tails

binturongs are the only Old World mammal that have a prehensile tail. Their tails grow about the same length of their body and act like a fifth limb when climbing. The tip of their tail has a leathery patch that gives extra traction when they use it to hold on to a branch. Their tail might be its most vital climbing tool. When sleeping, they use their tails like anchors, gripping tightly on a branch to stop them from falling off.

Bear walk

Binturongs, like bears, walk flat-footed. When they walk, such as in instances where they have to come down from the canopy,  in an ambling, side-to-side gait. Think pooh bear as he makes his way into the forest, only with four legs.

Planned pregnancy

Here’s a trait that most women would probably want. Female binturongs are about to mathe throughout the whole year, however, most births happen between January and March. Researchers believe that binturongs are one of the only 100 mammal species that have the ability to delay implantation. This means that they can mate anytime they want, but time the birth of their young to a season with favorable environmental conditions.

Strangler figs

These animals actually have a special relationship with strangler fig. They play a big role in spreading the seed of these fruits in their droppings. They’re one of the only two animals that have digestive enzymes capable of softening the tough outer covering of the fig’s seeds, making the binturongs a very important specie in the rainforest.

Through the years, a vast number of the forest lands in Southeast Asia has become threatened by human activity. The main threats to binturongs are habitat destruction, hunting, and the wildlife trade.

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