At first glance the binturong (Arctictis binturong) might be mistaken for a lot of other animals. Its head looks like it belongs on a cat or perhaps an otter, while its body looks like somewhat of a cross between a wolverine, a bear and a sloth.
The binturong, sometimes referred to as the Asian bearcat, is actually a member of the Viverridae family; home to animals such as civets and genets. The origins of the binturong’s name are no longer known, as the language spoken by the locals who originally coined is now extinct.
Roughly the size of housecat, binturongs are usually two to three feet long and weigh between 20 and 30lbs. Their bodies are covered in thick black fur with bits of silver on the face. Binturongs use scent glands to communicate and mark territory. The particular scent of the binturong has been compared to hot, buttered popcorn.
Binturongs are native the rainforest canopy of Southeast Asia in countries such as Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. They are omnivorous and eat a variety of different fruits, leaves, lizards and carrion. Their strong claws and long prehensile tails allow them to easily traverse trees and even walk down tree trunks head first!
Due primarily to deforestation, binturongs are now considered nearly endangered. Other threats to their wild existence include occasional hunting and their popularity as pets.
Binturongs are quite noisy animals and are known for making chuckling sounds when happy and high-pitched squeals when annoyed.
San Diego Zoo
Carnivore Preservation Trust