The binturong, Arctictis binturong, also known as the bearcat, is a tree dwelling viverrid native to Southeast Asia. Listed as vulnerable by the IUCN due to population decline, the binturong is the only “Old World” mammal and one of only two carnivores to have a prehensile tail. The binturong is considered a “keystone species” and fulfills an important ecological role throughout its range where it is one of the chief consumers of the fruit of the strangler fig, which makes up a majority of the canopy layer.
Though widespread throughout its range, the binturong is thought to be uncommon or rare today. Historically, the binturong was found across South and Southeast Asia’s tropical and equatorial rainforests. Today it is considered native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma (Myanmar), Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Major threats to the species are habitat loss and degradation, including habitat fragmentation due to deforestation. Human encroachment into the forest and conversion of forested land to agricultural use is pervasive in much of the binturong’s range.
The binturong is primarily arboreal—meaning that it lives in the trees—but does descend to the ground on occasion. Camera traps have revealed a higher level of ground activity than previously anticipated for the species. Ecology of the species is poorly understood and thought to vary across subspecies and between areas of habitation. Some binturongs are primarily crepuscular and nocturnal while others are more diurnal, leading some researchers to suggest a cathemeral—or sporadic activity during both day and night—classification.
Binturong are opportunistic hunters and will prey on small, tree dwelling mammals in addition to their normal diet of fruit, nuts, and vegetables. Classified as carnivores due to their teeth, these animals survive primarily on a vegetarian diet.
Sash, who was born in 2013, arrived at the Conservators Center in 2015 as a companion for a female binturong who has since passed away. Like our other two binturongs, Stella and Jerry, he is relatively easygoing guy—since he's lived at the Center, we don't think we've ever heard him make a fuss about anything! However, unlike Jerry, he is not naturally extroverted. That doesn't mean he's not friendly, though! A bashful and almost self-conscious binturong, he sometimes takes a little while to warm up to people. It helps if you bring him his favorite food: clementines! He also has a soft spot for many of our tour guides and knows when he has an audience; it's not uncommon to see him quietly creep up to a tour group to say hello.
Easily the most outgoing of our binturongs, ten-year-old Jerry is a super-friendly extrovert who perks up immediately whenever he sees visitors and adores attention overall. We owe his comfort with humans to his upbringing as an animal ambassador at another location, where he educated people about binturongs in outreach programs. Though he retired to the Conservators Center in July 2013, where he shares his home with his lady friend, Stella, he still enjoys traveling to the Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh for some of their annual events. Jerry’s favorite things in the world—other than us silly primates—are whole apples and tangerines. It’s cute to watch him peel them by himself! He’s also best friends with our costumed mascot, Popcorn Binturong.
Placid Stella arrived at the Conservators Center in 2011 as an adult. She’s definitely a “stop-and-smell-the-roses” type of binturong who moves turtle-slow through her enclosure and always pauses to soak up as much sun as possible. In fact, you can often find this timid girl basking with her belly in the air and her four feet against the fence. While Stella originally came to the Conservators Center as a companion for another male binturong (who has now passed of old age), she lives today with Jerry. Since they’ve moved in together, she’s shed some of her previous shyness and sometimes follows Jerry over to wherever human visitors appear. She still, however, has a wide "personal space bubble"; Jerry is happy to respect that.