Michigan zoo announces birth of two binturong babies

A zoo in Michigan has hailed the arrival of two baby binturongs, or ‘bintlets.’

Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, Mich., announced Tuesday that Thistle, their female binturong, had given birth to a trio of babies on July 4.

The zoo added that the event marked the first birth of a binturong at the zoo in over 20 years.

While two of the babies were born healthy and thriving, the zoo said in a press release that the third cub “was found to be sick and despite 24-hour care by veterinary and animal care staff, the bintlet passed away in the week following its birth.”

In the lead-up to the birth, animal care experts at the zoo said that they were able to perform research on the binturong life cycle due to Thistle’s easygoing nature.

“Animal care staff has done a great job training the mother binturong Thistle to allow awake ultrasounds,” said the zoo’s director of animal health, Dr. Ronan Eustice. “We’ve been able to collect valuable information on fetal parameter development in Binturongs and we hope to share this information to the zoo wide community in a scientific publication in the future.”

The two babies continue to gain weight and do well, the zoo said, but will not be on display for a few more months while they continue to develop.

The zoo did, however, release a video of the babies hanging out in their new home with mom.

Potter Park Zoo celebrates birth of baby bintlets! Female binturong Thistle gave birth to three babies the evening of July 4. Check out our blog and follow our social media for updates! https://t.co/qtptuNqpP3 #PPZLife #Binturong pic.twitter.com/UjP9wv2cbz— Potter Park Zoo (@potterparkzoo) July 19, 2022

Mother Thistle was born at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence, R.I., in 2019. The babies’ father, Barry, was born in 2017 at Brookfield Zoo in suburban Chicago.

“This successful binturong breeding is incredible for the species. I’m excited for Potter Park Zoo, our community, and the species as a whole,” said animal care supervisor Pat Fountain. “The zookeepers worked hard to make this possible.”

Binturongs, also known as bearcats, are unique-looking creatures, members of a rare subspecies of animals called viverrids.

Native to southern Asia, binturongs can be found from the Indian subcontinent to Laos, Cambodia and the Philippines. They are known for their quirky personalities as well as the fact that they are described as smelling like popcorn.

In the last few decades, binturongs have faced significant threats, however, from poaching and habitat loss. It is listed as a “vulnerable” species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

AB Conservation, an NGO dedicated to the preservation of the binturong, describes some of the challenges the animal faces.

“[The binturong] is mainly threatened by deforestation and illegal wildlife trade, as it can be sold as a pet or used for its fur and meat,” the group said.