Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The binturong, or Asian Bearcat, is neither bear nor cat, but shares ancestors with the cats. From Eastern Asia, these nocturnal tree-dwellers are at risk of poaching (for medicinal uses) and deforestation. So they're declining. You can find them in the rain forests of places like Laos, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

They are roughly 30 lbs., so think of a small wildcat, like a bobcat or lynx. And they eat eggs, shoots, that sort of thing.

Perhaps something relatively unique to them, they are one of about 100 mammals in the world that are capable of embryonic diapause, meaning that the egg doesn't develop right after fertilization. It enters a dormant state until the environmental conditions are good -- certainly an incredible survival technique.

Also, their tails are prehensile, meaning they use them like limbs and can hang from them or swing from them, which is obviously useful for living in trees.

Lastly, they are important for the strangler fig trees native to their regions. They are able to digest a tough outer layer of its seed, allowing it to grow after passing through a Binturong. Few other mammals perform this task for the fig, but certainly these are key players for these fig trees.

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