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Zoo Atlanta welcomes new binturong

Zoo Atlanta welcomes Bramble, a 1-year-old female binturong, to the Complex Carnivores zone. A recent arrival from the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, R.I., Bramble is still acclimating to her new home, so there is not yet a guarantee of seeing her.

Once she has had a chance to adjust to her new environment, Bramble will have an opportunity to meet male binturong Baloo. Baloo, who is 2 years old, is another relatively new member of the Zoo’s animal population, having arrived in Atlanta in January 2020. Bramble and Baloo have been recommended to breed by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Binturong Species Survival Plan® (SSP), which seeks to maintain the genetic diversity and long-term sustainability of binturongs living in North American zoological populations.

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.

“We’re excited to welcome Bramble to Zoo Atlanta. We find that many of our guests have never heard of a binturong, so we have a valuable opportunity to acquaint our visitors with a species they may have never known about or thought to protect had they not visited Zoo Atlanta,” said Jennifer Mickelberg, PhD, Vice President of Collections and Conservation. “Like so many other species here at the Zoo, binturongs also have an important conservation story to tell, with its accompanying message of change beginning in our own households.”

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.

Plan a visit or learn more about binturongs at zooatlanta.org. Learn more about the palm oil crisis at zooatlanta.org/palmoil.

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