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Arctictis binturong 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Arctictis binturong
Species Authority: (Raffles, 1821)
Common Name(s):
English Binturong, Bearcat
Viverra binturong Raffles, 1821
Taxonomic Notes: Nine subspecies have been proposed (Pocock 1933, Cosson et al. 2007). Schreiber et al. (1989) proposed that clarification of the species’s taxonomy was important given that some of the proposed subspecies, notably A. b. kerkhoveni of Bangka, Indonesia, and A. b. whitei of the Palawan island group, Philippines, have very small distribution ranges.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+3cd+4cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-02-06
Assessor(s): Willcox, D.H.A., Chutipong, W., Gray, T.N.E., Cheyne, S., Semiadi, G., Rahman, H., Coudrat, C.N.Z., Jennings, A., Ghimirey, Y., Ross, J., Fredriksson, G. & Tilker, A.
Reviewer(s): Duckworth, J.W.
Contributor(s): Holden, J., Choudhury, A., Thapa, S., Widmann, P. & de Leon, J.
This species is listed as Vulnerable because of a population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last 18 years (three generations), inferred from shrinkage in distribution through habitat destruction and degradation, as well as over-exploitation (for both local use and wildlife trade). Habitat loss over this period has been the predominant driver of decline in the southern (Sundaic) portion of the range, where a significant proportion of lowland habitats have been converted to other land-uses that do not support the species e.g. oil palm plantations. In the northern portion of the range the rampant hunting and trade of mammals in this size-class (within northern South-east Asia and up into China; e.g. Bell et al. 2004), within which Binturong is a significant part, has severely depressed populations even within remaining large blocks of little-degraded forest (e.g. Chutipong et al. 2014; Coudrat et al. 2014; Gray et al. 2014a, 2014b; Willcox et al. 2014: SOM T3). Populations in the northern range continue to be threatened by wildlife hunting and by the recent proliferation of agro-industries and other forms of forest conversion in the region, which are causing habitat loss in some protected areas that potentially still hold the species. Thus the species is considered to be experiencing population declines sufficient to meet the threshold for Vulnerable in this northern part of its range on the basis of actual or potential levels of exploitation, with habitat loss being an additional factor (e.g. WWF 2013). In the Sundaic portion of the range, habitat loss has been severe in the lowlands (e.g. Holmes 2000; BirdLife International 2001; Jepson et al. 2001; McMorrow and Talip 2001; Lambert and Collar 2002; Curran et al. 2004; Fuller 2004; Sodhi et al. 2004, 2010; Eames et al. 2005, Aratrakorn et al. 2006; Miettinen et al. 2011; Margono et al. 2012, 2014; Gaveau et al. 2014; Stibig et al. 2014). This forest loss, particularly in the lowlands, is predicted to continue within the next three generations within parts of the species’s range (e.g. Borneo). However, in other parts, much lowland forest has already gone, and future forest loss, proportionate to what remains, is likely to slow down in some areas. Because there is no evidence that Binturong uses the plantations that, largely, are replacing natural forest in this region (e.g. Semiadi et al. in prep.), major declines can be inferred based on decline in area of occupancy and habitat quality. There is insufficient information about Binturong usage of high-altitude forests (where forest is being lost more slowly), however, it is certainly not primarily a montane species and lowland forest habitats are thought to be the most suitable, and on this basis the populations in the Sundaic portion of the range are also judged to be declining at rates sufficient to warrant listing as Vulnerable, mainly through habitat loss compounded with killing and capture.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2008 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 1996 – Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The Binturong is widespread in South and South-east Asia occurring from eastern Nepal, Bangladesh, north-east India and southern China through mainland and island South-east Asia, south-east to Java (Indonesia) and occurring also on the Philippine islands of Calauit and Palawan (Corbet and Hill 1992, Heaney et al. 1998, Choudhury 2013). In North-east India it is known from all the states, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, West Bengal (northern parts), Sikkim and Tripura, being widespread in several of them (Choudhury et al. 2013). The species has been camera-trapped in Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan (Tempa et al. 2011), and is predicted to be present in other southern parts of Bhutan, where suitable habitat remains largely intact (A. U. Choudhury pers. comm. 2015). In Bangladesh there are confirmed sightings from the north-east (Tania Khan per Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2015), the Chittagong Hill Tracts were it has been camera-trapped (Chakma 2015), and in Cox’s Bazar district, south-east Bangladesh, where an animal was photographed (Sayam Chowdhury per Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2015). Eastern Nepal represents the known western limit of the species’s geographic range, although no recent confirmed records could be traced (Sanjan Thapa pers. comm. 2015, Yadav Ghimirey pers. comm. 2015); but recent suitable survey in this part of the country has been very limited and the species is considered likely to persist there. It occurred, at least formerly, in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces of southern China, but there are few recent records, none outside Yunnan (Wang 2003, Lau et al. 2010, C. Huang pers. comm. 2015). It potentially occurred historically in Singapore although there are no known records from the country (Chua et al. 2012). There are no confirmed records from Brunei, but this is likely to be because of poor survey effort and not because of any ecological factors (Semiadi et al. in prep.).

It occurs from sea level up to 3,000 m a.s.l., although it is thought to live at higher densities in lowland forest habitats (i.e. below 1,000 m) (see the Habitats and Ecology section, below)
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Jawa, Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak); Myanmar; Nepal; Philippines; Thailand; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):YesExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):3000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Historically, the Binturong was often thought to be relatively common within its distribution range, but it is now mostly uncommon or rare, and is likely to be approaching national extinction in some range countries in mainland South-east Asia (including Viet Nam) and in China. Lekagul and McNeely (1977) stated that it was rare in Thailand, although Nettelbeck (1997) observed it frequently in a small and intensively watched part of Khao Yai National Park. In Lao PDR, there were only three sightings in the extensive wildlife surveys into some of the remotest parts of the country between 1992 and 1999 (Duckworth et al. 1999). Although the species is mostly arboreal, it is detectable using camera-traps, and relatively intensive post-1999 field surveys that have used this method in suitable habitat in protected areas have produced few or no records of this species in Lao PDR (Johnson et al 2009, Coudrat et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014b), Cambodia (Gray et al. 2014a) and Viet Nam (Willcox et al. 2014: SOM T3), indicating apparently severe declines in these countries. There are very few camera-trap records from Cambodia, although live animals are relatively frequently confiscated from the wildlife trade there (N. Marx per J. Holden pers. comm. 2015). Thailand might be expected to hold one of the healthiest populations in mainland South-east Asia, but declines are suspected there as well (Chutipong et al. 2014). In Myanmar, Than Zaw et al. (2008) confirmed camera-trap records from six survey areas (from Kachin state in the north to Tenasserim in the south), and the species has since been detected in most of the few recent (post-2013) camera-trap surveys in the country, with records from Karen state, Tanintharyi division, and from Tamanthi Wildlife Reserve in Sagaing division (WCS, NWCD, KWCI unpublished data per T.N.E. Gray 2015), suggesting that it might rival Thailand as a core country for the species’s conservation in mainland South-east Asia. There are very few records from Bangladesh, but a camera-trap photograph of an adult with young from the Chittagong Hill Tracts (Chakma 2015), suggests that there is a breeding population at least at this site. In North-east India, it is becoming rarer because of habitat loss, because it seems to prefer mature forest, and is mostly restricted to protected areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Medhalya, Nagaland, Tirupura and Sikkim (Choudhury 2013). It is approaching national extinction in China (Lau et al. 2010).

Binturong was detected by camera-traps in forest surveys across Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, including logged areas, but where logging activities were recent, detections were fewer than in both adjacent primary forest and older logged forest, suggesting a decline in population in logged areas, at least initially (A.J. Hearn, J. Ross and D.W. Macdonald, unpublished data). In Sumatra (Indonesia), the species is probably still widespread in the remaining lowlands in Aceh province and upland forests throughout Sumatra; it is relatively frequently observed and camera-trapped in the Batang Toru forest in North Sumatra, up to 1,000 m a.s.l. (G. Fredriksson unpublished data 2015). Binturong is thought to be relatively common in Kerinci, West Sumatra (Holden 2006, J. Holden pers. comm. 2015). The bones of a Binturong were collected from a snare-trap set for Serow Capricornis sumatrensis at 2,500 m a.s.l. in Kerinci, West Sumatra (Holden 2006). In the Philippines, the species is localized and uncommon (Heaney et al. 1998): populations are thought to be decreasing as a result of collection for the pet trade.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Binturong is primarily arboreal, but does descend to the ground; in fact the number of camera-trap photographs of this species across its range reveals a level of ground activity higher than had previously been unexpected for this species. Also, the species has been caught in baited live traps set on the ground (Grassman et al. 2005, Chutipong et al. 2014). The species is heavy and ponderous (adults can reach over 20 kg), and where more agile arboreal animal species could leap between trees, it must descend to the ground to go from one tree to another (Than Zaw et al. 2008).

The ecology of this species is poorly known and might vary between areas; information about diel activity is conflicting. Grassman et al. (2005) noted it to be crepuscular and nocturnal,  and targeted small carnivore surveys at a logging concession in Sarawak, Borneo (Malaysia), recorded the species only during the early morning and during the night (Mathai et al. 2010). By contrast, Nettelbeck (1997) found it often to be active during the day, and many other day-time field sightings have been made incidentally during forest research (e.g. Lambert 1990, Datta 1999, Coudrat et al. 2014, Chutipong et al. 2014, Sayam Chowdhury pers. comm. 2015). Activity patterns have also been described as cathemeral (Than Zaw et al. 2008).

In Phu Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand, Grassman et al. (2005) found that males have a mean annual range size of 6.2 km² with a mean overlap of 35%. A single female Binturong tracked in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary had a home range of 6.9 km² (Chutipong et al. 2015). The species is thought to be predominantly frugivorous. There is a detailed observation of a group of Binturongs feeding on figs Ficus over several nights in North-east India (Murali et al. 2013), and many of the incidental observations of the species are of animals in fruiting trees (e.g. Lambert 1990, Nettelbeck 1997, Datta 1999, Low 2011).

In Lao PDR, recent records are from extensive evergreen forest, (Duckworth et al. 1999). In the Philippines, the species is found in primary and secondary lowland forest, including grassland-forest mosaic from sea level to 400 m (Rabor 1986, Esselstyn et al. 2004). It was recorded in secondary forest, that had been logged in the 1970s, and which surrounds a palm estate, in Malaysia in 2000–2001 by Azlan (2003). Mathai et al. (2010) recorded the species in a logging concession, although never amid active logging; all records were from patches of forest with medium to high relative levels of contiguity. In Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, the Binturong was camera-trapped in all surveys of forest areas throughout the state, including primary and logged forest, but was not detected in oil palm plantations.  In one survey it was detected at over 1,000 m a.s.l. (A.J. Hearn, J. Ross and D.W. Macdonald unpublished data). Elsewhere in Borneo it has been recorded down almost to sea-level (e.g. Sabangau National Park, Central Kalimantan; Semiadi et al. in prep.). Meijaard et al. (2008) classified the species as tolerant of moderate intensity logging, and it has been recorded from logged forest on Borneo (Samejima et al. 2012). In Bangladesh the few confirmed records are from hill evergreen forest in the north-east and south-east (Chakma 2015, Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2015). In Java the species has been observed in a mosaic open forest landscape, interspersed with agriculture and non-native forest plantations, where, in the several years of survey, there was only a single record of hunting of nocturnal mammals (Rode-Margono et al. 2014); the species is never (or only exceptionally rarely) recorded in such landscapes in northern South-east Asia, which are invariably hunted heavily, perhaps explaining this difference. There are no records of this species from within blocks of monoculture plantations such as palm oil or rubber.

The litter size is typically one to three, with a gestation of about 92 days, reaching adult size in one year; individuals may live as long as 18 years (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Litter size in captivity is one to six, most commonly two. Observations in captivity have shown that copulation usually takes place in trees.
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):6
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In the Philippines this species is caught for the pet trade, and in the south of its range it is also taken for human consumption (GMA Philippines 2006). In Lao PDR, this species is one of most frequently displayed caged live carnivores (e.g. five displayed in Pakxe market place during 2013; T.N.E. Gray pers. comm. 2015). In addition, skins are traded frequently in at least Vientiane (R. Tizard pers. comm. to Duckworth et al. 1999). Many of the animals traded are young (I. Johnson pers. comm. to Duckworth et al. 1999). Considered a delicacy in parts of Lao PDR, the Binturong is taken for food and is also traded as a food item to Viet Nam (I. Johnson pers. comm. to Duckworth et al. 1999). In Viet Nam, there are a few recent records of this species kept as pets or display animals in hotels (D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2015), and the species is also traded for Viet Nam’s wildlife meat and traditional medicine markets, for which a wide range of animal species are hunted (Bell et al. 2004). Binturong meat is valued locally in Arunachal Pradesh, North-east India (Datta et al. 2008; Naniwadekar et al. 2013). Civets (Viverridae), including Binturongs, are traded their meat for across Peninsular Malaysia (Shepherd and Shepherd 2010). In Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura and the hill districts of Assam in India, it is hunted opportunistically and its meat is taken for subsistence use (A.U. Choudhury pers. comm. 2015). In Indonesia, when ‘kopi luwak’ ('civet coffee') became a popular product among coffee makers and consumers, several local ‘luwak farmers’ in Lampung, Sumatra, were observed using captive Binturongs and Common Palm Civets Paradoxurus hermaphroditus to produce this coffee (G. Semiadi and Wirdateti unpublished data 2014). In early 2013 when the ‘civet lovers’ hobby in Indonesia emerged, Binturongs were traded, although the number of this species in collections is thought to be low. Several Binturongs were seen for sale for the exotic pet trade in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, in 2014 (G. Fredriksson pers. comm. 2015).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss and degradation are major threats to the Binturong (Schreiber et al. 1989) as is fragmentation, particularly in those parts of the range where hunting is heavy. Throughout this species's range, there has been loss and degradation of forests through logging and conversion of forests to non-forest land-uses (Sodhi et al. 2010; WWF 2013, 2015; Gaveau et al. 2014). Forest conversion has been extremely high in the lower-altitude parts of its Sundaic range in the last 20 years (e.g. Holmes 2000, BirdLife International 2001, Jepson et al. 2001, McMorrow and Talip 2001, Lambert and Collar 2002, Kinnaird et al. 2003, Curran et al. 2004, Fuller 2004, Eames et al. 2005, Aratrakorn et al. 2006, Gaveau et al. 2014, Margono et al. 2014, Stibig et al. 2014). Protected areas are not exempt from deforestation; 40% of the forest lost in Indonesia during 2000–2012 was lost in areas where logging is restricted (national parks and protected forests; Rode-Margano et al. 2014), and in Kalimantan specifically, 56% of protected lowland forests were cleared from 1985 to 2001 (Curran et al. 2004). Lowland deforestation is now also a growing threat to populations in mainland South-east Asia (e.g. Chutipong et al. 2014, Donald et al. 2015). Choudhury (1997) noted that large-scale deforestation in Indian portions of the species’s range could be contributing to its increased rarity, because many former records come from areas where forests are now being degraded. In China, rampant deforestation and opportunistic logging have fragmented suitable habitat or eliminated sites altogether (Pu et al. 2007).

Throughout South-east Asia, Binturong is hunted for its meat, for traditional medicines and as pets (Corlett 2007, Roberton 2007, Datta et al. 2008, Shepherd 2008, Shepherd and Shepherd 2010, Naniwadekar et al. 2013). In the Philippines, this species is harvested for the pet trade, and in the south of its range it is also taken for human consumption (GMA Philippines 2006). In Lao PDR, this species is among the most frequently displayed caged live carnivores and skins are traded frequently in at least Vientiane (R.J. Tizard pers. comm. to Duckworth et al. 1999, T.N.E. Gray pers. comm. 2015). Considered a delicacy in parts of Lao PDR, the Binturong is taken for food and is also traded as a food item to Viet Nam (I. Johnson pers. comm. to Duckworth et al. 1999). There is a large demand for civet meat, including Binturong, in China and Viet Nam (Bell et al. 2004, Roberton 2007).

Recent camera-trapping evidence across the species’s range has made clear that the Binturong descends to the ground more frequently than had previously been thought; therefore, the threat of snaring to this species is likely to be more serious than had been assumed. Non-specific hunting of large mammals is very high across most of the species's mainland range, with industrial level cable-snaring especially prevalent in parts of northern South-east Asia. Given that the Binturong is relatively unafraid of people and is sometimes active during the day, it is often conspicuous both to surveyors (suggesting that the few encounters reflect a low population) and to hunters (thus exposing it to elevated risk) (Duckworth et al. 1999); this is supported by verbal reports from wildlife hunters in North-east India (see Naniwadekar et al. 2013). A number of national-, landscape- and survey-area-level reviews of small carnivore records in mainland South-east Asia have found Binturong to be infrequently recorded, and sometimes not at all, in relatively intensive camera-trap surveys (i.e. more than 1,000 effective camera-trap-nights) (e.g. Chutipong et al. 2014; Coudrat et al. 2014; Gray et al. 2014a, 2014b; Willcox et al. 2014: SOM T3). Although the species’s arboreality may in part explain the paucity of records, the large number of camera-trap surveys, some of which were targeted at species found in similar habitats e.g. Mainland Clouded Leopard Neofelis nebulosa, and the hunting-pressures in this region that have caused the declines in a large range of animal species, suggests that the current infrequency of Binturong records from the mainland South-east Asia portion of its range may be a genuine indication of its rarity there and that this reflects recent decline.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Stricter enforcement of legislation against poaching, wildlife trade, habitat degradation and deforestation is required to conserve Binturong. In India it has been on CITES Appendix III since 1989 (CITES 2015). It has also been listed under Schedule I of The Wild Life (Protection) Act of India; this gives the highest conservation status to any species. In Borneo, it is included on Schedule 2 of Sabah’s Wildlife Conservation Enactment 1997, under which hunting and collection is allowed with appropriate license issued by the Sabah Wildlife Department, on Part II of the First Schedule of the Sarawak Wildlife Protection Ordinance 1998, and on Indonesia’s Government Regulation No 7. In Brunei, however, the Binturong is not legally protected. In Bangladesh it has complete protection under wildlife protection law of 2012. It is protected in Malaysia, Thailand (under WARPA 2003), and in Viet Nam (Appendix 1B; Decree 32/2006). In the Philippines, the Environmental Legal Assistance Center has been involved in controlling and enforcing wildlife laws. The species is listed as Critically Endangered on the China Red List.

Binturong occurs in many protected areas spread across its current range; however, the effectiveness of these reserves at protecting this species is highly variable: it has not been targeted as a conservation focus, or indeed even surveyed for, in many protected areas, and most of the confirmed records are from general surveys or by-catch from surveys aimed at other species. Detailed radio-tracking studies, combined with watching to pay particular attention to ground-level use, would aid, greatly, understanding of this species’s ecology and therefore (i) a far more confident assessment of whether the lack of camera-trap records from some areas is a genuine reflection of decline/absence, and not of ineffective camera-trap placement, and (ii) more effectively targeted conservation.

Citation: Willcox, D.H.A., Chutipong, W., Gray, T.N.E., Cheyne, S., Semiadi, G., Rahman, H., Coudrat, C.N.Z., Jennings, A., Ghimirey, Y., Ross, J., Fredriksson, G. & Tilker, A. 2016. Arctictis binturong. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41690A45217088. . Downloaded on 30 June 2016.
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