Binturongs were once found throughout China, India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and on the island of Borneo, but are now only found in pockets throughout South East Asia.
The species is also known as ‘bearcats’ and belong to a family of small carnivores that include Civets and Mongoose. There are nine subspecies, generally distinguished by size and location. Females are generally larger than males and give birth to one to three young at time after a gestation of around three months. Young are born about the size of a human fist, and females care for their brood in a nest on the ground.
While Binturongs are classified as carnivores, they mostly eat fruit. They’re good swimmers and have been known to hunt fish. They live primarily in trees and are hard to find, so little is known about their behaviour in the wild. They’re generally solitary and spend most of their time moving slowly through the trees. Because of their large size, Binturongs don’t leap from branch to branch or tree to tree, and instead climb down to the ground to move from tree to tree. They have a strong, prehensile tail that they use to balance and grip branches as they move through their territory.
Binturongs are at risk from habitat destruction, poaching for traditional medicines and the fur trade. In some areas they are considered a delicacy and hunted for food. It’s estimated the population has declined by 30% over the past 30 years.