Even though they look like a mix of sloth, cat, bear, raccoon, seal, otter, and monkey, these animals are actually not related to any of the above.
They are the largest members of the family Viverridae and are related to civets and genets. Like many other creatures that live in rainforest, they are endangered because of the habitat destruction.
Binturongs live in the rainforests and mangroves of Southeast Asia. They also can be found in countries: Sumatra, Java, Thailand, Vietnam and on the islands of Borneo. They spend most of their lives high in the trees and are mostly active at night. Binturongs are well adapted to surviving in the trees of the rainforest. They have very sharp claws that help them to climb trees easily, and they use tails to maneuver in a variety of ways. Their short legs help them balancing and stay close to the tree branches.
Their social structure is believed to be either of a small group consisting of a male, female, and one or two young, or solitary. They communicate with many different vocalizations including an aggressive high-pitched sound. When challenged by another animal, they will sometimes even spit.
They have long, low, stocky bodies covered with shaggy, coarse, black tipped fur with a gray color that gives these animals a speckled look. Their faces and heads are covered with fine grizzled-gray hair and long, dark, whiskers with white tips that can reach up to 25 cm long. Their back feet have semi-webbed toes, while their front feet have opposing digits and soft pads. Their toe nails are similar to a cat’s but are only semi-retractable.
These long whiskers, that Binturongs have, help to move around and find food at night. The fur on their cute faces is mostly a light, grey color. Binturongs walk on all fours, and their legs are short similar to a raccoon’s legs. In a protected environment they can live up to 10-20 years.
These nocturnal animals do most of their hunting at night, using their long whiskers as “tools” for sensing food. They tear their foods with forepaws. Fruit, leaves, plant sprouts, lizards, small mammals, fish, eggs and carrion, for which they have a decided preference, are all the foods they eat.
These animals reach sexual maturity at about 2, 5 years. Fertilization is internal. After a 3 months gestation period, 1-2 blind cubs weighing about 310 gm (11 oz), are born in tree hollows or dens. Their eyes are opened after 10 days. The cubs nurse for about 8 weeks. Both parents take an active part in their care; training until the cubs become independent at about one year.
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Binturongs have a definite preference for the strangler fig fruit, the primary canopy plant of their forest area. Seeds of this plant cannot germinate without assistance of binturongs. These animals make germination possible, because during digestion the outside coating of the seeds breaks excreting the seeds in their droppings and ready to grow.