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World Binturong Day

Happy World Binturong Day! Cerys explores the history and importance of Binturongs and reveals exactly what you can do from your home to help them!


Photo of two Binturongs. Image Credit: Kevinsphotos via Pixabay.


Binturongs are the largest member of the Viverrid family and are closely related to civets. They are found within dense areas of tropical rainforests of southeast Asia. They are also the largest mammal with a prehensile tail – meaning they can use their tail as a fifth limb. Binturongs whilst generally considered carnivores can also be considered as omnivores, due to their diet including various fruits and plants as well as meat.


Binturong sitting on a branch. Image Credit: Marjonhorn via Pixabay.


However, these facts aren’t what Binturongs are best known for! Binturongs are particularly unique due to the scent that they produce which smells just like buttered popcorn. This unique smell produced from their scent glands, is used in communication across Binturongs, alongside the production of various vocalisations. These vocalisations include growls, wails and even a ‘chuckle’ sound.

Unfortunately, Binturongs have been classified as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN, resulting in close monitoring of populations in the wild. This is with the hope that conservationists will be able to better their chances of survival in the future. The threats being faced by Binturongs include human induced threats such as habitat loss, involvement in the civet coffee industry and trade for bushmeat or the pet trade.


A map illustrating the natural habitat of the Binturong (Southeast Asia – highlighted in the darker blue). Image Credit: Wikimedia Images via Pixabay.


So why would losing the Binturong be such a catastrophic loss? Binturongs are key ecosystem engineers, meaning they’re valuable in maintaining ecosystems and ensuring biodiversity can thrive. They do this through excellent seed dispersal, being particularly efficient in the dispersal of fig seeds! Without these animals, and animals like them, the forests would become degraded which would further impact biodiversity.


Sleeping Binturong housed at Dudley Zoo and Castle, taken on World Civet Day. Image Credit: Cerys Deakin.


Binturongs are the most well known of the viverrid family and are frequently housed in zoos across the UK. The use of Binturongs as flagship species for viverrids allows awareness to be raised for other species such as civets and genets. There are also breeding programmes in place for the Binturong, although only two zoos in the last 24 months have had baby binturongs. One of these is the Cotswold Wildlife Park, where their female Binturong Himala, produced twin binlets.


So, what can you do to help? If I can direct you anywhere it's to check out organisations like WildWelfare, ABConservation and The Civet Project – these organisations recognise that every animal is valuable and work to preserve and protect viverrids including the beautiful binturong! You can also share this piece and share your newfound knowledge! Every little bit helps when conserving global biodiversity.


About the Author: Cerys Deakin is a third year Zoologist at the University of Exeter, with a passion for conservation. Cerys has been working closely within The Civet Project team and has been enlightened to the beauty of the Binturong! For more information about current efforts to conserve viverrids check out The Civet Project on LinkedIn. Cerys is also undertaking a running challenge this month to help raise funds for future projects to conserve viverrids, check this out here: https://gofund.me/65bd535c You can also find out more about Cerys’ studies and skills on her LinkedIn page.

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