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Pulling out the popcorn for Binturongs

15 May 2019

Melbourne Zoo is celebrating World Binturong Day this week, aimed at generating awareness about a vulnerable species that smells fascinatingly just like popcorn!

The Binturong, which is also described as a ‘bearcat’ for its bear and cat-like features, has the unique ability to leave behind a popcorn-like scent as it drags its tail along the branches it climbs.

However, whilst the smell of popcorn is a pleasing smell for humans, the Binturong’s scent serves a distinct purpose - to mark its territory for and deter would-be predators.

Carnivores keeper Georgie Greig looks after for Melbourne Zoo’s resident Binturong, Gangsa, and describes him as an “absolutely incredible animal who is both gentle and inquisitive.”

Gangsa this week received some of his favourite treats following one of his routine training sessions.

“We do training trainings sessions with Gangsa, where he ventures all around his exhibit,” said Ms Greig.

“He does this voluntarily and it allows us to monitor his movement, assess his body condition and teach him to participate in his own healthcare, all stress-free.

“Training is a really important part of Gangsa’s day, and he absolutely loves it as he always receives some yummy food as a reward. This week he has received an extra special treat, with banana, kiwi fruit and grapes lodged in a pinecone.”

Ms Greig said generating awareness about Binturongs and their plight in the wild was incredibly important.

“Binturongs are classified as vulnerable in the wild, with their population decreasing largely as a result of habitat destruction.

“It would be really sad if we lost the species altogether, so by celebrating them, we are aiming to generate awareness to help save them from extinction.”

Anyone can get involved in the conservation of this fascinating species by learning more about Zoos Victoria’s Don’t Palm Us Off campaign, which aims to raise awareness about unsustainable palm oil production in the habitat of the Binturong. The campaign advocates for the clear labelling of palm oil on products in Australia, which would enable consumers to make informed choices and support the sustainable production of palm oil, without further destruction of the Binturongs’,  natural habitat.  
Visitors can see Gangsa the Binturong up-close at Melbourne Zoo 9am-5pm, seven days a week.