April 10, 2017
- as seen by -Alys Granados
When thinking about bearcats, a song called “Do the Bearcat” by David Wilcox might come to mind. But the bearcat is a real animal that isn’t actually a bear or a cat.
Bearcats, more commonly known as binturong, are mammals related to civets and can be found in the jungles of southeast Asia where they spend a lot of time in the trees eating fruit, especially figs. Binturongs eat other foods like insects, leaves, and roots, but as fruit eaters, they play an important role in maintaining forest biodiversity. By eating figs, traveling to other parts of the forest, and then defecating the seeds, they increase the chance of those seeds germinating and growing into adult trees.
Binturongs are not strictly arboreal, although they do have a prehensile tail. They will venture to the forest floor to move between trees. Our camera traps in Borneo captured this binturong on the ground checking out some seeds we set out as part of a study to find out what influences animal diet choice around predators.
Unfortunately, the main threat to binturongs is humans. Binturongs are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, and their populations are decreasing due to habitat loss, hunting, and the pet trade. Scientists are still discovering much about the ecology of this little known animal. Determining their basic requirements for space and food will aid in binturong conservation efforts.
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