Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.
All photos from the Creative Commons.
Scientific Name: Arctictis binturong
Also known as the “bearcat” because of its resemblance to both, but it is neither a bear nor a cat. It belongs to the family Viverridae, the family of civets and genets. Viverridae are a family of primitive carnivores whose fossils date back to a period about 50 million years ago known as the Eocene.
Where Binturongs Live:
Rainforest and other forested habitats in south and southeast Asia in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, primarily living in trees.
What Binturongs Eat:
Mostly fruit but will also hunt small animals including birds, fish, rodents and insects. Will also opportunistically eat carrion and eggs.
How Long Binturongs Live: 18 – 25 years
Why Binturongs are Important Seed Dispersers:
Binturongs have a preference for the fruit of the strangler fig, which is the primary canopy plant in some of their range. When seeds of the strangler fruit pass through the digestive system of binturongs, the enzymes break down the outer coatings of the seed. This makes seed germination possible after binturongs have excreted them in their droppings.
Watch this video, compliments of the ABQ Biopark Zoo in Albuquerque, New Mexico to learn more about what makes binturongs so special, particularly in their climbing abilities.
Conservation of Binturongs:
Binturongs are threatened by destruction of their rainforest habitats, poaching, use in traditional medicine, the pet trade and lack of perceived value in their native countries. The Palawan binturong, Arctictis binturong whitei, is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List as endangered. All other subspecies of binturong are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.
How to Help Binturongs:
Binturongs are often overlooked because of their unique place in the animal classification system. I could not find a single sanctuary or rescue organization dedicated to binturongs that exists in their native range. If you know of one, please respond in the comments here.
There are many carnivore rescue groups in the United States that happen to have binturongs that were privately owned pets and then surrendered. Many zoos have binturongs as well. Some of the sanctuaries breed binturongs, and there is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Binturong Species Survival Plan, both of which may prevent extinction of the species. But one must ask to what end are we breeding any species in captivity whose native habitat is being permanently destroyed?
When clear cutting and replanting of forested areas is done, many assume that habitat will be restored. This is a flawed perspective. There is a transition period when there is no or very little habitat as the new vegetation grows. Where shall the animals live, reproduce, and maintain natural behaviors during this period? When the habitat has returned to full growth, many years later, the kind of vegetation is often not the same and it cannot be assumed it will meet the nutritional, nesting and other habitat needs for species that evolved over centuries with specific types of plants and other ecological features.
Half of all the world’s plant and animals can be found in rainforests.
The best thing any of us can do to help all animals is decrease our consumption of products that adversely affect the rainforests.
The World Wildlife Foundation has lots of good techniques for helping our living planet by reducing your impact.