Binturong (Arctictis binturong)


HB: 610-965; T: 500-840; HF: 130-180; E: 49-53; W: 9-20kg

The Binturong is the largest of the Viverridae, and the long shaggy hair makes it look much larger that it already is. The general colour is black, by this may vary in each individual., this being dependant on the number of hairs with white tips.. In some individuals the whole head is greyish to almost white in in others the grey may extend to behind the shoulders. The ears are round and edges conspicuously with white, the hair behind each ear are long and protrude beyond the ear tip as  a long tuft. (a characteristic not found in any other Viverridae). The tail is long and prehensile. The feet are plantigrade, with short, slightly curved, semi retractile claws; the soles are naked to the heels. There are two pairs of mammae.The skull closely resemble that of Paguma, but is somewhat larger. and has a palate considerably more curved from front to back(resembling Arctogalidia in this character). The post orbital area is not as constricted.. The dentition contains the full Viverridae compliment of 40 teeth, but the upper second premolar is sometimes missing, and the first lower premolar in minute and occasionally lacking. The upper incisors are rather more separated than in other civets.

Range Description:

The binturong is widespread in South and Southeast Asia occurring in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China (Yunnan), India (including Sikkim), Indonesia (Kalimantan, Java, Sumatra), Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines (Palawan), Thailand, and Vietnam (Heaney et al. 1998; Wozencraft 2005). Records from outside this range include a 1928 record from Guangxi, China (Zhang 1997) and record from Calauit Island, Philippines (Corbet and Hill 1992) and several from Cambodia (Walston 2001).
Countries: Native:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Jawa, Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak); Myanmar; Nepal; Philippines; Thailand; Vietnam


Historically, the binturong was often thought to be abundant within its distribution range, but is now uncommon or rare over much of the range. Lekagul and McNeely (1977) reported this species as rare in Thailand. In Lao PDR, there were only three sightings in extensive wildlife surveys into some of the remotest parts of the country between 1992 and 1999, two from Nam Kading National Biodiversity Conservation Area (Duckworth et al. 1999), and one from Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area in early 1998 (Walston and Vinton 1999, Duckworth et al. 1999). While Deuve (1972) reported this species to be common in Lao PDR, it is thought that this might be due to its striking appearance, rather than natural abundance (Duckworth et al. 1999).

Work in Thailand by Nettelbeck (1997) suggested that binturongs can be seen frequently when the threat of hunting is removed; however, as hunting is common in most areas, it is unclear whether the observed is only applicable to the site where this observation was noted (Near Khao Yai National Park headquarters in Thailand). Grassman et al. (2005) recorded 31 individuals in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand between 1998 and 2002. In the Philippines, the populations are restricted and uncommon (Heaney et al. 1998). Populations are thought to be decreasing as a result of collection for the pet trade. In Assam, India, the binturong has been noted as not uncommon in forested areas, and is most common in regions with good tree cover (Choudhury 1997).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology:

Binturongs are primarily arboreal, but do descend to the ground and some are captured (Duckworth et al. 1999); in
fact the number of pictures coming up on camera-traps across its mainland range reveals an unexpectedly high level of ground activity. This is no doubt because it is heavy and ponderous, and where other animals would leap between trees, it must descend to the ground to go from one tree to another, i.e. quite often when commuting (Than Zaw et al. in press).  The ecology of this species is poorly clarified and may vary between areas, as publications about activity are conflicting. Grassman et al. (2005) noted the binturong to be crepuscular and nocturnal and Nowak (1991) reported them to be predominantly nocturnal, whereas Nettelbeck (1997) reports them to often be active during the day, and there are many other day-time field sightings made incidentally during forest research (e.g. Lambert 1990; Datta 1999). Activity patterns have also been described as cathemeral or arrhythmic (Than Zaw et al. in press). In Thailand, Grassman et al. (2005) found that this species has a mean annual range size of 6.2 kmē with a mean overlap of 35% in a study on this species conducted in Phu Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary. Within this range, the binturong is confined to tall forest, where it feeds on fruits and small animals like insects, birds, and rodents, as well as fish (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). In Lao PDR, recent records are from extensive evergreen forest, while in other countries a variety of tall forests are used (Duckworth et al. 1999). In the Philippines, the species is found in primary and secondary lowland forest, including grassland/forest mosaic from sea level to 400 m (Rabor 1986; Esselstyn et al. 2004). It was recorded in secondary forest, that was logged in the 1970s, and which surrounds a palm estate, in Malaysia in 2000-01 by Azlan (2003).The litter size is about one to three, with a gestation of 92 days, reaching adult size in one year, and they may live as long as 18 years (Lekagul and McNeely 1977).
Systems: Terrestrial

 Major Threat(s):

Habitat loss and degradation are a major threat to the binturong (Schreiber et al. 1989). Throughout this species' range, there has been loss and degradation of forests through logging and conversion of forests to non-forest land-uses. Forest conversion has been extremely high in the lower altitude parts of its Sundaic range in the last 20 years (e.g. Birdlife International, 2001; Holmes, 2000; Jepson et al., 2001; Cornrow and Talip, 2001; Lambert and Collar, 2002; Curran et al. 2004; Fuller, 2004; Eames et al. 2005, Aratrakorn et al. 2006; Kinnaird et al. 2003). Choudhury (1997) notes that large-scale deforestation in Indian portions of the species range could be contributing to its increased rarity, since many records come from areas where forests are now being degraded. In China, rampant deforestation and opportunistic logging practices have fragmented suitable habitat or eliminated sites altogether (Pu et al. 2007). In Borneo, the overall density of civets (including the binturong) in logged forests was found to be significantly lower than in primary forests (Heydon and Bulloh, 1996).

In the Philippines this species is harvested for the pet trade, and in the south of its range it is also taken for human consumption (GMA Philippines 2006). In Lao PDR, this species is one of most frequently displayed caged live carnivores and skins are traded frequently in at least Vientiane (R. Tizard pers. comm.). Since many of the animals being traded are young, there is the possibility that trees are deliberately felled to allow individuals to be caught (I. Johnson pers. comm.. 1996). Considered a delicacy in parts of Lao PDR, the binturong is taken for food and is also traded as a food item to Vietnam (I. Johnson pers. comm. 1999). Given recent camara  trapping evidence in mainland Asia, it has become clear that the binturong descends to the ground more frequently than previously thought (Duckworth pers. comm. 2007); therefore the threat of snaring when this species descends to the ground may be more serious than previously considered (Duckworth et al 1999). Non-specific hunting of large mammals is very high across most of the species' mainland range. Duckworth (1997) speculated that hunting was unlikely to be the cause of the few recent sightings of binturong in Lao PDR, citing the many Black Giant Squirrels and gibbons in several areas lacking Binturong records. However, given the possibility of intraspecific differences in population dynamics, these species may likewise have differing resilience to hunting pressure (Duckworth et al. 1999). Given that the binturong is relatively unafraid of humans and is sometimes active during the day, the species is often conspicuous both to surveyors (suggesting that the few encounters reflect a low population) and to hunters (thus exposing it to elevated risk) (Duckworth et al 1999).

 Conservation Actions:

India included the binturong in CITES Appendix III in 1989 (UNAPT-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species 2006). In the Philippines, the Environmental Legal Assistance Centre has been involved in controlling and enforcing wildlife laws (applicable for all Palawan species). The species is protected in Malaysia (Azlan 2003), and is listed as Critically Endangered on the China Red List (Wang and Xie 2004). The species would benefit from effective controls on the trade. The binturong occurs in protected areas across its current range, however, the effectiveness of these reserves at protecting the species is variable. Stricter enforcement of legislation against hunting, poaching, encroachment, habitat degradation, and deforestation is required to achieve the necessary protective status for this species.
This species has been recorded from several studies in protected areas, such as the following examples. A study of the range, habitat use, and activity patterns of this species was conducted by Grassman et al (2005) in Phu Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand (16° 05? to 16° 35? N, 101° 20? to 101° 55 E). It has also been studied in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand by Nettelbeck (1997) and Austin (2002). This species has been recorded recently in Nam Kading National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Lao PDR (Duckworth et al, 1999. This species was recorded from Jerangau Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia in 2000-01 (04° 55.5? N, 103° 05.7? E; Azlan 2003), and Krau Wildlife Reserve (Laidlaw 2001).