Facts About the Palawan Bearcat
The population of the Palawan bearcat or binturong, one of the mammal species of Palawan Island, is under constant human threat. Scientifically referred to as Arctictis binturong whitei, the Palawan bearcat is nowadays an uncommon encounter. Although it is currently under the vulnerable species category of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is possible that it is endangered in its range in Palawan Island. It is hunted for its meat, fur and medicinal uses, and traded as pets.
Taxonomy and Morphology
The Palawan bearcat resembles a bear and a cat at the same time but it belongs neither to the cat nor the bear family. It belongs to a lone genus of the family Viverridae, the family of civets and genets. Viverridae are a family of animals which are amongst the primitive families of carnivores whose fossils date back to the Eocene or that period about 50 million years ago. The Palawan bearcat is one of the nine recognized subspecies of Arctictis binturong although it is sometimes considered a distinct species.
Most animals under Viverridae have retractice or partially-retractile claws, a bone in the penis called baculum, and a scent gland in the genital area which serves territorial, communication as well as sexual roles.
A distinguishing characteristic of the Palawan bearcat are the small and rounded ears lined with white fur and long, white whiskers reaching to as much the length of its head. The bearcat has coarse and thick black-brown fur which ends in a bushy tail. Adults of the species can grow to as much as 1.4 meters and weigh more than 20 kilograms. The bearcat’s small eyes are luminous when shone with a flashlight since they are nocturnal.
Habitat and Feeding Habits
The Palawan bearcat inhabits the forest canopy and sleeps on tree branches camouflaged by thick vegetation during the day to avoid detection. The bearcat’s prehensile tail, or a tail adapted for grasping objects, enables it to clamber among branches of trees in search of food like bird eggs, young shoots, rats, or young birds that are unable to fly. Its sharp claws and teeth can easily rip the flesh of its victim. Since it can survive on both animal and plant material, the bearcat is omnivorous.
Since many of the ranges of the Palawan bearcat are intruded by man, the bearcats also prey on farmer’s poultry. Thus, they become pests that farmers exterminate.
The bearcats attain sexual maturity after about two years. Typically, bearcats produce two offsprings. They may, however, give birth to six.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (2010). Arctictis binturong. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved on October 16, 2010 from http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/41690/0
Wikipedia (2010). Binturong. Retrieved on October 16, 2010 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binturong.
©Patrick A. Regoniel 2010 October 16 | Facts About the Palawan Bearcat