Friday, 26 June 2009

Photos of the Day #35: Binturong

Above photo and all others in this post:
Arctictis binturong (Raffles, 1821)
Viverridae; Carnivora; Mammalia; Chordata
Colchester Zoo
June 2009

Think of a mammal with a prehensile tail: there are a few obvious choices, like spider monkey and opossum. There are, however, two species of carnivoran with tails that are not only completely muscular, but are able to grip onto tree branches and can support their weight: these are the kinkajou (Potos flavus) and the binturong.

Both are arboreal mammals that spend very little time on the ground (in the wild, at least). But neither are that closely related to each other, having adapted to an arboreal lifestyle in ways different to their closest kin. The kinkajou, related to the raccoons and coatis (see previous post), is a mostly herbivorous carnivoran (an oxymoron, if ever there was one!), eating mostly fruit, flowers and nectar. The binturong, however, is more carnivorous, but is still partial to fruit.

The binturong, or bear-cat, looks most un-civet like, betraying its kinship to the mostly spotted and less shaggy civets, genets and oyans (formerly called 'African linsangs', but the two members of the genus Poiana from Africa are unrelated to the Asiatic linsangs of the genus Prionodon, now in a family of their own, Prionodontidae). It is only when stripped down to its bare(-cat) bones that it looks truly like a civet. Binturongs are the largest civets, weighing a good 15 kg (33 lb) at times (an exceedingly obese individual tipped the scales - what a funny idiom - at 22 kg, or 50 lb!). A most interesting fact about binturongs gleaned from the internet: they apparently have a most endearing scent, likened by most to warm buttered popcorn!

In this image, you can see the naked tip to the prehensile tail of the binturong. I spent a good 15 minutes at the zoo trying to get good photos of the binturongs. In that time, I overheard a lot of people. Most saw the sign declaring "Meerkats" and assumed these were the beloved mongooses they know from TV documentaries, The Lion King and those adverts (Simples!). The two couldn't look more different if the binturongs had pink fur and wings and the meerkats were ten feet tall. The meerkats were just around the corner; use your eyes and - gord forbid - your brains, people!!!

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Brian Lee Beatty said...

There's a binturong in a small local zoo-like park run by the state of NY that has a petting zoo. I love going there, mainly because it is mostly populated by more "normal" animals for a small zoo, but then there's this binturong, and few people there even know what it is. It looks lonely, but I take my kids there and try to tell them about how lucky they are to see it. Even some of the people there don't realize their luck, and I always sound like a crazy person when I insist on telling them about the animal. That is often how zoo visits go, however... :-{

Anonymous said...

I see ur intrested in the binturong, I seen it on the Leno Show and decieded to do a research paper on it, only one problem its gettin hard getting information on this animal. Any suggestions? or would you be able to email me at the information you do have. my email is