Sunday, April 08, 2012

Meeting a shy Binturong

March was a great time to visit Thailand's nature reserves. It was the dry season but many of the fig trees were heavy with fruit.
At Khao Yai National Park, I was lucky to have caught sight of a Binturong on the evening of my first day there. However, in the excitement of showing me the Binturong the people who lived near the fruiting fig tree were too loud and scared away the shy Binturong that was feeding in the bright evening sun.
The next day we went back to the location after an unsuccessful attempt to see the wild elephants of Khao Yai (this is my third attempt and still no elephants). We got there early and quietly waited for the Binturong to appear. Sure enough like clock work this hungry fella climbed up the fig tree and began to feed.

I am excited to see a live Binturong in the wild because it is believed to be locally extinct in Singapore. Elsewhere, the Binturong is also under threat from man and habitat loss. IUCN lists it as a vulnerable species as their population is on the decline. Also known as the Bearcat, the Asian Bearcat and the Asian Civet, once commonly found throughout much of it's historical range but sadly, today they are a rare find in the thick jungles and very little is actually known about their behavior in the wild. 
Binturongs are found in dense forests of South-East Asia. They belong to the same family of small carnivores, which include civets,and mongooses. Although they belong to the carnivorous mammal group, Binturongs are mainly frugivorous meaning that their diet comprises of fruit. They are thought to be most closely related to the Palm Civet and is the largest member of this family. 

This male fed for almost 30 minutes before disappearing down the fig tree. It reappeared at 6 pm but was in no hurry to feed. It sat under the thick canopy and leisurely groomed itself.

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