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
Taxonomic Notes: Nine subspecies have been recognized (Pocock 1933, Cosson et al. 2006). The Palawan Island population, Arctictis binturong whitei, is sometimes considered a distinct species (Allen 1910, Heaney et al. 2002, Corbet and Hill 1992, Cosson et al. 2006), and was ranked separately, as a subspecies, in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Mammals.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Widmann, P., De Leon, J. & Duckworth, J.W.
Reviewer(s): Belant, J. (Small Carnivore Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
This species is listed as Vulnerable because of a population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last 30 years (three generations), inferred from over-exploitation, shrinkage in distribution, habitat destruction and degradation, and wildlife trade. Habitat loss has been predominantly in the southern (Sundaic) portion of the range. In the northern portion of the range, habitat encroachment, while leading to some declines, is not as significant as in the southern portion, but the rampant hunting and trade of mammals in this size-class (within SE 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. Thus this species in this northern part of its range is considered to be experiencing population declines sufficient to meet criteria for Vulnerable in large part on the basis of actual or potential levels of exploitation. In the Sundaic portion of the range, habitat loss has been severe in the lowlands (e.g. BirdLife International, 2001; Holmes, 2000; Jepson et al., 2001; McMorrow & Talip, 2001; Lambert & Collar, 2002; Curran et al., 2004; Fuller, 2004; Eames et al. 2005, Aratrakorn et al., 2006; Kinnaird et al., 2003). As there is no evidence that Binturong uses the plantations that are largely replacing natural forest in this region, major declines can be inferred based on decline in area of area of occupancy and habitat quality. There is insufficient information about usage of mid and high altitude forests (where forest is being lost more slowly), however, it is certainly not primarily a montane species, 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:
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The binturong is widespread in south and southeast Asia occurring in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China (Yunnan), India (including Sikkim), Indonesia (Kalimantan, Java, Sumatra), Lao PDR, Malaysia, Nepal, Philippines (Palawan), Thailand, and Viet Nam (Heaney et al. 1998; Wozencraft 2005). Records from outside this range include a 1928 record from Guangxi, China (Zhang 1997) and record from Calauit Island, Philippines (Corbet and Hill 1992) and several from Cambodia (Walston 2001).
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Jawa, Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak); Myanmar; Nepal; Philippines; Thailand; Viet Nam
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Historically, the binturong was often thought to be abundant within its distribution range, but is now uncommon or rare over much of the range. Lekagul and McNeely (1977) reported this species as rare in Thailand. In Lao PDR, there were only three sightings in extensive wildlife surveys into some of the remotest parts of the country between 1992 and 1999, two from Nam Kading National Biodiversity Conservation Area (Duckworth et al. 1999), and one from Hin Namno National Biodiversity Conservation Area in early 1998 (Walston and Vinton 1999, Duckworth et al. 1999). While Deuve (1972) reported this species to be common in Lao PDR, it is thought that this might be due to its striking appearance, rather than natural abundance (Duckworth et al. 1999).

Work in Thailand by Nettelbeck (1997) suggested that binturongs can be seen frequently when the threat of hunting is removed; however, as hunting is common in most areas, it is unclear whether the observed is only applicable to the site where this observation was noted (near Khao Yai National Park headquarters in Thailand). Grassman et al. (2005) recorded 31 individuals in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand between 1998 and 2002. In the Philippines, the populations are restricted and uncommon (Heaney et al. 1998). Populations are thought to be decreasing as a result of collection for the pet trade. In Assam, India, the binturong has been noted as not uncommon in forested areas, and is most common in regions with good tree cover (Choudhury 1997).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Binturongs are primarily arboreal, but do descend to the ground and some are captured (Duckworth et al. 1999); in
fact the number of pictures coming up on camera-traps across its mainland range reveals an unexpectedly high level of ground activity. This is no doubt because it is heavy and ponderous, and where other animals would leap between trees, it must descend to the ground to go from one tree to another, i.e. quite often when commuting (Than Zaw et al. in press).

The ecology of this species is poorly clarified and may vary between areas, as publications about activity are conflicting. Grassman et al. (2005) noted the binturong to be crepuscular and nocturnal and Nowak (1991) reported them to be predominantly nocturnal, whereas Nettelbeck (1997) reports them to often be active during the day, and there are many other day-time field sightings made incidentally during forest research (e.g. Lambert 1990; Datta 1999). Activity patterns have also been described as cathemeral or arrhythmic (Than Zaw et al. in press).

In Thailand, Grassman et al. (2005) found that this species has a mean annual range size of 6.2 km² with a mean overlap of 35% in a study on this species conducted in Phu Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary. Within this range, the binturong is confined to tall forest, where it feeds on fruits and small animals like insects, birds, and rodents, as well as fish (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). In Lao PDR, recent records are from extensive evergreen forest, while in other countries a variety of tall forests are used (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 was logged in the 1970s, and which surrounds a palm estate, in Malaysia in 2000-01 by Azlan (2003).The litter size is about one to three, with a gestation of 92 days, reaching adult size in one year, and they may live as long as 18 years (Lekagul and McNeely 1977).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: 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 Laos, this species is one of most frequently displayed caged live carnivores and skins are traded frequently in at least Vientiane (R. Tizard pers. comm.). Since many of the animals being traded are young, there is the possibility that trees are deliberately felled to allow individuals to be caught (I. Johnson pers. comm. 1996). Considered a delicacy in parts of Laos, the Binturong is taken for food and is also traded as a food item to Vietnam (I. Johnson pers. comm. 1999).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Habitat loss and degradation are a major threat to the binturong (Schreiber et al. 1989). Throughout this species' range, there has been loss and degradation of forests through logging and conversion of forests to non-forest land-uses. Forest conversion has been extremely high in the lower altitude parts of its Sundaic range in the last 20 years (e.g. BirdLife International, 2001; Holmes, 2000; Jepson et al., 2001; McMorrow and Talip, 2001; Lambert and Collar, 2002; Curran et al. 2004; Fuller, 2004; Eames et al. 2005, Aratrakorn et al. 2006; Kinnaird et al. 2003). Choudhury (1997) notes that large-scale deforestation in Indian portions of the species range could be contributing to its increased rarity, since many records come from areas where forests are now being degraded. In China, rampant deforestation and opportunistic logging practices have fragmented suitable habitat or eliminated sites altogether (Pu et al. 2007). In Borneo, the overall density of civets (including the binturong) in logged forests was found to be significantly lower than in primary forests (Heydon and Bulloh, 1996).

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 one of most frequently displayed caged live carnivores and skins are traded frequently in at least Vientiane (R. Tizard pers. comm.). Since many of the animals being traded are young, there is the possibility that trees are deliberately felled to allow individuals to be caught (I. Johnson pers. comm.. 1996). 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. 1999).

Given recent camara-trapping evidence in mainland Asia, it has become clear that the binturong descends to the ground more frequently than previously thought (Duckworth pers. comm. 2007); therefore the threat of snaring when this species descends to the ground may be more serious than previously considered (Duckworth et al 1999). Non-specific hunting of large mammals is very high across most of the species' mainland range. Duckworth (1997) speculated that hunting was unlikely to be the cause of the few recent sightings of binturong in Lao PDR, citing the many Black Giant Squirrels and gibbons in several areas lacking Binturong records. However, given the possibility of interspecific differences in population dynamics, these species may likewise have differing resilience to hunting pressure (Duckworth et al. 1999). Given that the binturong is relatively unafraid of humans and is sometimes active during the day, the species 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).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: India included the binturong in CITES Appendix III in 1989 (UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species 2006). In the Philippines, the Environmental Legal Assistance Center has been involved in controlling and enforcing wildlife laws (applicable for all Palawan species). The species is protected in Malaysia (Azlan 2003), and is listed as Critically Endangered on the China Red List (Wang and Xie 2004). The species would benefit from effective controls on the trade.

The binturong occurs in protected areas across its current range, however, the effectiveness of these reserves at protecting the species is variable. Stricter enforcement of legislation against hunting, poaching, encroachment, habitat degradation, and deforestation is required to achieve the necessary protective status for this species.

This species has been recorded from several studies in protected areas, such as the following examples. A study of the range, habitat use, and activity patterns of this species was conducted by Grassman et al (2005) in Phu Kieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand (16° 05' to 16° 35' N, 101° 20' to 101° 55' E). It has also been studied in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand by Nettelbeck (1997) and Austin (2002). This species has been recorded recently in Nam Kading National Biodiversity Conservation Area in Lao PDR (Duckworth et al, 1999. This species was recorded from Jerangau Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia in 2000-01 (04° 55.5' N, 103° 05.7' E; Azlan 2003), and Krau Wildlife Reserve (Laidlaw 2001).

Citation: Widmann, P., De Leon, J. & Duckworth, J.W. 2008. Arctictis binturong. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T41690A10516645. . Downloaded on 28 June 2016.
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