TassiloRau at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons
TassiloRau at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons

Arctictis binturong
Order: Carnivora

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Require climbing structures and high platforms, hammocks, nest boxes, etc.
  • Provide a quiet area for down time when the binturong is not being trained.

Diet Requirements

  • Omnivorous: feed fruits, vegetables, leaf-eater biscuits, dog kibble, meat, eggs.

Veterinary Concerns

  • Diabetes is a major concern with older binturongs.
  • Too much protein can also be a problem. A balanced diet without too much fruit sugar is important.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Do well with a small team of trainers that work closely together to maintain consistency of cues and criteria.
  • Preparation of young animals to participate in programs is intensive with consistant socialization and a minimum of two training sessions per day recommended. Discourage biting, swatting, climbing or sitting on a human’s shoulders, and other behaviors that will become dangerous in a full-grown binturong; it may be possible to redirect such behaviors but a correction such as a firm verbal "no" is also helpful when used sparingly. If the young binturong is biting and swatting as play behavior, hold onto a stuffed animal or other object and encourage the binturong to play with it instead. Thus natural play is allowed, but playing with human body parts is not.
  • Consider safety measures such as training in teams, wearing long pants, and carrying a radio and gloves.
  • Train the binturong to harness and crate immediately. Keep these behaviors as positive as possible.
  • When appropriate, begin to expose the binturong to a variety of new places, people, and situations at an early age. Keep in mind the animal’s natural history and anticipate stimuli that may cause a fear reaction. Precursers to dangerous behavior include piloerection and arched back.
  • Training the binturong to allow him or herself to be touched on the feet, abdomen, etc. facilitates tactile veterinary exam up to and including having their temperature taken without sedation or restraint.
  • Binturongs have sharp nails and a voluntary nail trim is an easily-trained behavior. It can be done protected-contact through a fence by having the binturong stand up against the fence, or it can be done free-contact by desensitizing the binturong to having its paws touched or held and nails trimmed.
  • Desensitize the binturong to having its tail grabbed. If he ever slips his harness, you can grab that tail before he runs away if need be.
  • A stand-up behavior can be used to demonstrate foraging or scaring away predators.

Programmatic Information

Tips on Presentation

  • Offering access to a structure that is at least a foot or two off the ground will increase comfort level during presentations.
  • Acclimate the binturong to a crate and have it available during presentations as a refuge in case of an extreme startle reaction.
  • May be trained to accept large pieces of fruit on an open palm, sit or stand for group photographs, or allow touches to the back by properly instructed guests for private tours and VIP experiences.
  • Plan practice training sessions at unfamiliar locations in advance of public presentations and media events. Sometimes the third time is the charm with novel stimuli.
  • A vertical pole wrapped with rope with a small disc platform at the top can be used to demonstrate the binturong's climbing ability.
  • The prehensile tail can be shown by training the binturong to wrap it around a trainer's wrist.

Tips on Handling

  • Because of the smooth shape of this species’ neck and jaw, fitting a harness securely can be challenging. Try a figure-8 style of harness, snugly fit.
  • A normal harness with a loop around the chest and one around the neck, attached by a strap between the shoulder blades and in the center of the chest, is also a good choice. Binturongs seems to easily learn to put their arm through the one side when putting the harness on, and usually assist the trainer taking it off by reaching behind their neck, grabbing the harness, and pulling it over their head like someone taking off a shirt (which is quite amusing to see). Just make sure that the chest strap is quite snug, otherwise they can do this with it still buckled and at inopportune times!
  • A collar can also be used.
  • Train behaviors such as “back up” that establish or maintain physical distance between the trainer and binturong. Placement of food reinforcers on the ground away from the trainer’s feet can also be used to create distance.


Potential Messaging

  • Deforestation
  • Exotic pet trade
  • Pollinators

Acquisition Information


Commonly bred in captivity.

Comments from the Rating System

  • Houston Zoo: Requires a lot of time and resources. Can be dangerous, particularly during the juvenile period. Awesome at times, but proceed with caution.


Natural History Information

Range and Habitat



Physical Description

Medium-sized animal, ranging from about 35-60 pounds, with coarse, long black fur. The ears are small and rounded with long tufts of hair that make them appear pointed. Color is black with varying amounts of grey or beige grizzling, especially on the face and legs. Eyes are slitted and face is somewhat foxy. Short, stocky legs. Paws are strong, with five digits on the front feet and four on the back, all of which have short, curved, sharp claws. The tail is longer than the body, tapering to a point from a wide base, and it is very muscular and prehensile, though completely covered with hair. Perhaps the most curious thing about the binturong is the adult's odor, which is often compared to buttered popcorn, caramel popcorn, Fritos, or tortilla chips. This odor is emitted from a perineal gland, and may be particularly strong when the binturong is excited or frightened, but guests can often smell the odor by petting the binturong's back and then sniffing their hand.

Life Cycle



Behavior

They are highly scent and sound-oriented and may be distracted by faint odors or sounds of which the keeper is largely unaware. Due in part to their normally somewhat nocturnal habits, even subtle changes in light such as walking from artificial light inside a building into bright light outside or even dappled sunlight under a tree may cause a binturong to startle. In general, vision appears to be relatively poor even for distances of a yard or two in bright light.

Female binturongs have an estrus cycle that can last nearly three months. During this time, they can act unmotivated, very motivated, extra spooky, angry, grumpy, loving, and in general not particularly reliable. Exercise a lot of patience and recognize that if she says "I'm not coming out!," she means it.


Threats and Conservation Status

  • Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil: Massive tracts of forested habitat are being converted to large-scale, commercial palm oil plantations. Habitat for orangutans, rhinos, clouded leopards, and many other endangered species on the islands of Southeast Asia has been lost to the palm oil industry for years. Now, Africa and even South America are increasingly affected. Palm oil can be used to make biofuels and shows up commonly in foods and cosmetics sold in the United States. Because of pressure from consumers world-wide many manufacturers have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which promotes practices such as planting palms in long, narrow patches that animals can move through easily without becoming lost and hungry. Please ask guests to be aware of palm oil (frequently listed as palm kernel oil, palmate, or palmitate) in the products that they buy and contact any manufacturer of a product with palm oil asking them (1) to harvest palm oil responsibly or not at all, (2) to join the RSPO, and (3) to mark their products with the RSPO seal. http://www.rspo.org/
  • Shade-grown coffee: The original coffee plants that were cultivated could not withstand much sunlight and were therefore grown beneath the canopy of the forest. Due to the popularity of coffee, most strains of coffee plants have been cultivated over time to withstand full sunlight. This has created large-scale deforestation for coffee plantations. Please ask guests to chose organic shade-grown coffee in which the plants are grown beneath the forest canopy, preserving arboreal habitat for animals while the forest floor is being used for human purposes. Look for coffee
    that is Rainforest Alliance Certified or marked “Organic Shade-Grown”. http://www.organicfacts.net/organic-beverages/organic-shade-grown-coffee.html
    http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture/crops/coffee
  • Most civet coffee involves animal cruelty. Do not buy.
  • Dogs and cats make the best pets. Visit your local animal shelter.


Did you know…




Photographs


typical training session 13 Apr 11 005.jpg
HZI, harnessing on station
DSC_4026.jpg
HZI, VIP photo opportunity
Hannah & SHSU Bearcat-3541.jpg
HZI, "stand" behavior with SHSU bearkat mascot
IMAG0579.jpg
HZI, media event
IMAG0756.jpg
HZI, "Paint" behavior
Binturong Keeper Talk-RPSOS-0020-4374.jpg
HZI, Keeper Talk Animal Encounter

Contributors and Citations