Cambodia Critters IV- The Bearcat

Proof that if there is an intelligent design creator of all creatures great and small, then He/She/It is a prankster.

Ladies and gentlemen, the binturong, aka the bearcat (Arctictis binturong).

First up this Dr. Seussian creature is neither bear, nor cat, but a relative of the palm civet.

They possess a raccoon like face with big white whiskers, the body of a bear and a ridiculous over-sized prehensile tail, which they urinate on. Oh yeah, that pee also smells like buttered popcorn.

Binturong bodies grow to between 60 to 90 centimeters, with a tail length of almost the same and can weigh anywhere between 13-22 kg. Females are about 20 percent larger and heavier than the males, and are the dominant sex in this species.

Binturongs spend most of their time in the trees, but are pretty cumbersome compared to monkeys, so need to go to ground when changing tree.. Padded paws and long claws help them grasp branches. Their body is low to the ground, like a bear or a human. They walk flat-footed, and, when waddling on the ground, they tend to amble much like a bear does. Unlike a bear or human, though, binturongs can turn their ankles 180 degrees so their claws can still grip when climbing down a tree headfirst. 

The binturong tail is thick and muscular at the base, with the last third prehensile. A leathery patch at the tip helps the tail grip the branches. It is the only Old World mammal and one of only two carnivores with a prehensile tail (the other is the kinkajou).

Although binturongs are able to see well in both day and night, they prefer to be more nocturnal, lounging about sunbathing and sleeping high up in the top canopy of forests during the daytime.

Binturongs will eat pretty much anything, from birds and lizards to fruit and vegetables, eggs, insects and even carrion they may come across. Their scat is a useful seed spreader in forests.

They also happen to smell like hot buttered popcorn. 

A  study published in The Science of Nature found the unusual scent is produced by a chemical compound in their urine called 2-AP. 

When a binturong urinates, the liquid soaks its feet and tail, which then leaves a scent trail when it walks. The smell is stronger in males.

The female binturong is one of only a hundred or so mammals that can experience delayed implantation. The female can thus time the delivery of of her young to preferable environmental conditions. Mating can take place anytime of the year, because the female can control when her babies are born.

Baby binturongs are born with closed eyes and hide in the mother’s fur for a few days. By six to eight weeks, they are the size of a domestic cat, and have developed a coat of coarse hair.

Binturongs usually live by themselves or in small family groups consisting of a female and her immature offspring. Sometimes the popcorn daddy hangs around for a bit after the birth.

They make distinctive sounds, including snorts and chuckles when happy, a high-pitched cat-like wail if disturbed to loud howls, low grunts, and hisses when really vexed. They are also known to defecate and urinate on threatening animals.

Binturongs have a range that extends from India across most of Southeast Asia. Loss of forest habitat, along with poaching, have seriously depleted the numbers of the animal in the wild. They have a Vulnerable conservation status.

Some ethnic groups keep binturongs as pets, and in captivity are known as being very intelligent, but grumpy. They are thought to live to around 25 years old.

Read more:

Critters I- The Furries

Critters II- Bat Country

Critters III- Cats

Snakes I

Snakes II

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