This piece written by Sydney Fitzpatrick
In the forests of southeast Asia there lives a shy animal that is vitally important to its rainforest ecosystem. It is known by a name most people have heard of, but few people knew really existed. Interested yet?
That animal is the binturong, also known as a bearcat, a popular school mascot, though it is neither a bear nor a cat. It’s most recognized feature is its buttery popcorn scent and it’s very long, prehensile tail. This grey and black animal spends most of its time in the trees, looking for their favorite foods. Binturongs are omnivorous, which means that eat both meat and plants. Binturongs especially love fruit! And this makes them a very important rainforest animal. Binturongs eat fruit and as the move through the forest, they poop out the seeds, which can then grow into trees.
But binturongs are in trouble. They are considered a threatened species and their population is declining. Their major threats are deforestation and the capturing of binturongs for both meat and as pets! Throughout southeast Asia, much of the rainforest is being torn down to make room for palm oil plantations. Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is used in almost 50% of all American processed foods, household products, and body products. 50%! The amount of forest being cut down to make these plantations is unsustainable and is destroying the habitat of not only binturongs, but animals such as elephants, tigers, and orangutans. So what can you do?
On May 9, the Houston Zoo will be celebrating World Binturong Day! From 10am – 2pm, guests can come to the grass field between Natural Encounters and the Reptile building to learn about binturongs and how we can help save their home. We will have activities for the kids, temporary tattoos, stickers, and a variety of animal encounters, including appearances by our resident binturong Hannah! We will also be welcoming Sammy the Bearkat, the mascot of Sam Houston State University, who will be making a guest appearance in Natural Encounters!
Schedule of events:
10:00 AM: Hannah the Binturong (Front of Natural Encounters)
10:30 AM: Sammy the Bearkat (Natural Encounters porch)
1:30 PM: Hannah the Binturong (Front of Natural Encounters)