Michigan zoo announces birth of first binturong babies in over 2 decades

‘This successful binturong breeding is incredible for the species’

Baby bintlets at the Potter Park Zoo (Potter Park Zoo)

LANSING, Mich. – The Potter Park Zoo welcomed three binturong babies, or bintlets, on the Fourth of July. Female binturong, Thistle, gave birth to her three babies which is the first binturong birth at the zoo in over two decades.

Two of the three babies are thriving. The third baby was found to be sick and sadly passed away in the week following its birth.

The veterinary team was able to monitor the pregnancy through ultrasounds that Thistle voluntarily participated in thanks to positive reinforcement training done by her zookeepers, Potter Park Zoo reports.

Bintlets are born with their eyes sealed and they remain hidden in their mother’s fur for the first few days of their lives. By the time they are six to eight weeks old, they are the size of a domestic cat, have grown a coat of coarse hair, and begin to explore and eat solid food.

What’s a binturong?

Binturongs are often referred to as bearcats. They live in canopies of tropical rainforests in southeast Asia. They typically live alone or in small family groups. The San Diego Zoo says, “a binturong has a face like a cat’s and a body like a bear’s, long, shaggy black hair, stiff white whiskers, and a prehensile tail that’s as long as its body.” They are about the size of a coyote, roughly two to three feet long, and can weigh up to 80 pounds.

The female binturong is one of only a few mammals that can experience delayed implantation, which allows the female to time the birth of her young with optimal environmental conditions.

According to the San Diego Zoo, binturongs’ conservation status is listed as vulnerable in some parts of their range and endangered in others. Their population is decreasing and currently at risk due to habitat destruction, poaching for traditional Asian medicines, and the fur and pet trade.

“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.”

Thistle and her babies are not currently able to be seen by zoo visitors, but father Barry is in his habitat for you to see.

About the Author:

Morgan is a Digital Editor and has been with WDIV since May of this year. She is also studying political science and communications at Wayne State University.