They don’t get much cuter than Australia Zoo’s binturongs. Often referred to as bearcats, these fascinating tree-dwellers are in fact not related to bears or cats. They are related to civets and fossas and smell like, wait for it….a freshly made batch of popcorn!
Binturongs are elusive and rarely spotted by humans in the wild. They spend most of their time navigating the tree canopy in search of small mammals, birds, insects, eggs and a variety of vegetation and forest fruits.
So why does an animal that doesn’t eat popcorn, smell like popcorn? This aroma comes from a scent gland under their tail. It’s a very powerful communication tool to warn off any trespassers or would-be predators! As a binturong drags its prehensile tail through the trees it leaves behind that very distinct popcorn odour. This is also handy when attracting a mate – the smellier the better in the binturong world! Unbelievably, binturongs have the ability to delay embryo implantation. The female can time the birth of her young according to the environmental conditions and suitability. This means that mating can take place anytime of the year, as the female can control when her babies are born. Crikey that’s cool!
Binturongs play a very important role in the forests of south-east Asia; helping to replant the rainforest through their faecal matter (poop). Seeds spread from the fruits and vegetation that they eat. Due to deforestation and poaching, they are a species in need of our support. Sadly, binturongs are listed as a vulnerable species.