One of the bintlets. (Photo courtesy of Zoo Atlanta's Instagram @ZooATL).
Zoo Atlanta has welcomed 3 new binturongs, or “bintlets” as they are referred to when newborns. They were born on August 31, 2023, to first-time parents, mother Bramble and father Baloo.
Fun facts about binturongs
These creatures, also known as “bearcats” because of their striking resemblance to both animals, are1,2:
- Actually in the family Viverridae and most closely related to civets
- One of two members of the order Carnivora to feature a prehensile tail
- Often described to smell like buttered popcorn because their urine contains 2-acetyl-1-pyrroline, the chemical compound that gives popcorn its smell
- Noisy and can snort, chuckle, and purr to express themselves
- Born blind and entirely dependent on their mothers
- About the size of squirrels when born and grow to the size of coyotes
- Native to southern and southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and parts of China
“Zoo Atlanta was so excited to see Bramble and Baloo introduced in 2020, and we’re doubly excited to welcome their first bintlets,” expressed Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, vice president of collections and conservation.1 “Many of our visitors have never heard of or seen a binturong, so we have a valuable opportunity to introduce a species that is not only intrinsically valuable in its own right in its wild ecosystem, but which also has an important conservation message to share.”
At first, Bramble did not accept her offspring, but now 2 of the 3 bintlets have joined their mother and are nursing normally. The third is being temporarily reared by the Animal Care and Veterinary Teams in consultation with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos with hopes the newborn can join his mother and siblings in the next several weeks.1
Bramble and Baloo were recommended to breed by the AZA Species Survival Plan. Through dedication and positive reinforcement training, the zoo’s carnivore and veterinary teams have trained Bramble to engage in voluntary ultrasounds to confirm and monitor her pregnancy. The infants will remain behind the scenes at Zoo Atlanta until they are large enough to roam safely in the outdoor habitat.
Binturongs are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Their biggest threat is habitat loss for conversion to agriculture, particularly for palm oil plantations. Additional threats are the pet trade and hunting for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.1
- Binturongs born at Zoo Atlanta. News release. Zoo Atlanta. September 8, 2023. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://zooatlanta.org/binturongs-born-at-zoo-atlanta
- Binturong. Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Accessed September 11, 2023. https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/binturong