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Binturong - UPSC Current Affairs

The binturong, also known as the bearcat, is a unique mammal native to South and Southeast Asia. With its long, bushy tail, distinctive appearance, and omnivorous diet, it plays an important role in seed dispersal and is a focus of conservation efforts.

Jun 19, 2023

3 min read

The binturong, also known as the bearcat, is a fascinating and unique creature native to South and Southeast Asia. Despite its elusive nature and declining population, it captivates the imagination with its distinct characteristics and ecological importance.




Derived from the Western Malayo-Polynesian root "ma-tuRun," the name "binturong" reflects its common moniker in Borneo. The scientific name Arctictis binturong originates from the Greek words "arkt-" meaning bear and "iktis" meaning weasel. The binturong stands as the sole member of the Arctictis genus.


With its stout legs, long body, and thick coat of coarse black hair, the binturong possesses a distinct appearance. Its prehensile tail, tapering gradually and curving inward at the tip, aids in its arboreal lifestyle. Notably, the binturong exhibits unique features such as a short, pointed muzzle covered in bristly hairs, large black eyes, and rounded ears with tufts of black hair. Its dental structure includes incisors, canines, and molars. The binturong's size and weight vary, with females weighing around 21.9 kg (48 lb) and males around 19.3 kg (43 lb) on average.


The binturong's range spans from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh to Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It prefers tall forests and is often found in foothills and hills with ample tree cover. Although it inhabits various habitats, it shows a preference for primary and secondary lowland forests.


Active during both day and night, the binturong displays crepuscular and nocturnal tendencies. Its movement between trees is aided by its tail, which also serves as a communication tool. While primarily arboreal, it can descend to the ground when necessary. The binturong exhibits comfort behaviors, such as grooming, shaking, and scratching. Figs constitute a significant part of its diet, while it also consumes small mammals, birds, insects, and fruits.


Sexual maturity is reached at around 27.7 to 30.4 months, with females having an estrous cycle lasting 18 to 187 days. Gestation ranges from 84 to 99 days, resulting in litters of one to six young. The binturong faces threats from habitat loss, deforestation, and hunting. Efforts for its conservation include legal protection, awareness campaigns, and captive breeding programs.


The binturong, with its striking appearance and ecological significance, stands as a unique and captivating species. Understanding and conserving this remarkable creature is crucial to ensure its survival and preserve the biodiversity of its natural habitat.


Image credit: Carlos Delgado

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