BINTURONGS BORN AT ZOO ATLANTA
Squirrel-sized “bintlets” will remain behind the scenes for several weeks
ATLANTA – September 8, 2023 – Zoo Atlanta is excited to welcome three new binturongs, born to mother Bramble on August 31, 2023. The newborns – which are known as bintlets – are the first offspring of Bramble and father Baloo and the first binturongs to be born at Zoo Atlanta.
First-time mom Bramble did not initially accept her offspring; however, two of the three have since successfully joined their mother and are nursing normally. The third is being temporarily reared by the Animal Care and Veterinary Teams in consultation with other Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited zoos which have previously successfully reared the species. It is hoped that the third bintlet will be able to join his mother and siblings in coming weeks.
Like other carnivore species, binturongs are born blind and entirely dependent upon their mothers. Weighing around 400 grams and roughly the size of squirrels, the bintlets will remain behind the scenes for several weeks until they are large enough to safely navigate the outdoor habitat in the Zoo’s Complex Carnivores zone.
“Zoo Atlanta was so excited to see Bramble and Baloo introduced in 2020, and we’re doubly excited to welcome their first bintlets,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “Many of our visitors have never heard of or seen a binturong, so we have a valuable opportunity to introduce a species that is not only intrinsically valuable in its own right in its wild ecosystem, but which also has an important conservation message to share.”
Bramble and Baloo were recommended to breed by the AZA Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain the genetic diversity and long-term population sustainability of the species in human care. Thanks to years of commitment and positive reinforcement training, the Zoo’s Carnivore and Veterinary Teams were able to train Bramble to participate in voluntary ultrasounds to confirm and monitor her pregnancy.
Also known as “bearcats” for their physical resemblances to both, binturongs are neither bears nor cats but are instead most closely related to civets. Binturongs are one of only two members of the order Carnivora to feature a prehensile tail. Also distinctive is their scent, which is said to resemble buttered popcorn or corn chips.
Native to southern and southeast Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and parts of China, binturongs are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their most pressing threat is habitat loss for conversion to agriculture, especially for palm oil plantations. Other threats include the pet trade and hunting for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some parts of their range.
Processed from the fruit of the African oil palm tree and harvested worldwide in warm and temperate climates, palm oil is one of the planet’s most commonplace commodities. It is found in over half of all household products, from foods and beverages to toothpaste, shampoo, and pet food. Some of the planet’s most concentrated regions of palm oil production are in southeast Asia, and these unsustainable activities are resulting in dramatic population declines for numerous animal species.
Zoo Atlanta is one of only a small number of zoos to pursue and attain membership in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil™ (RSPO). The Zoo and many other accredited zoos are vocal advocates for encouraging the use of only sustainable palm oil, supporting only companies who use sustainably produced oil and celebrating those who make the switch, and raising public awareness of the necessity for informed shopping.
Stay tuned for updates on Bramble, Baloo, and the bintlets, and plan a visit at zooatlanta.org.