Written by Sydney Fitzpatrick
Hi! Let me introduce myself. I am Hannah the binturong, and I live a wonderful life here at the Houston Zoo. What’s that? You don’t know what a binturong is? Then you should come out to the Houston Zoo on May 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to celebrate World Binturong Day!
Let me tell you a little history about myself and my species:
Like I said, my name is Hannah, and I’m now 11 years old. I live at the Houston Zoo in the Natural Encounters building, but you won’t see me on exhibit. I have a home behind the scenes. Since I am an Ambassador Animal for my species, I love to meet Zoo guests during special chats that are all about me. I am here to educate and inspire you to care about binturongs that live in the wild.
Binturongs are the largest of the civets, a small family of carnivorous mammals that are mostly nocturnal. Sometimes people call binturongs “bearcats,” but, because I’m related to neither bears nor cats, it doesn’t make much sense to me. You can find most of us living in dense forests of southeast Asia. We grow to weigh around 25 pounds, and can be over six feet long. We spend most of our time up in the trees, and camouflage well with our black, grey or brown fur. It makes us hard to see because we look just like a shadow, but, if you look up, you might be lucky enough to spot a binturong!
At the Zoo, I live with a lot of logs and beams to climb on. I enjoy having two of my very own houses—one even has a skylight. I spend most of my days napping with my blankets and favorite stuffed animals, but I can be quite adventurous too. Binturongs love climbing, and have a special prehensile tail to help us out. I use my tail like another arm or leg. I like curling my tail around branches, and I can even hang from it! A wild binturong likes to eat birds, insects and fruit, so our prehensile tails can really come in handy for navigating the tree tops. Here, my zookeepers give me meat, special leafeater biscuits and fruit. The fruit is my favorite.
Even though I can do a lot, we binturongs like to live life at a leisurely pace. We would much rather spend our days hanging in the trees than running around like some of those other animals. In between naps, I like to climb around my yard and explore new enrichment items my keepers have given to me. Sometimes, I even find food inside the fun items.
Every day, I spend time with my keepers and trainers, and I’ve learned a lot of behaviors that I show off during special tours and presentations. On May 12, I’ll be out making special appearances during the day at the Natural Encounters building. You will get to learn about me, my unique adaptations (like that I smell like buttered popcorn) and some of the threats other binturongs face in the wild. You will even learn easy things you can do every day to help save them. Also, I’ve heard there will be some fun children’s games and activities, too.
Come out and join the Zoo in celebrating me on May 12!