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Binturong climbing on branches

Popcorn-scented ‘bearcat’ arrives at Paignton Zoo

A new and unusual animal has arrived at Paignton Zoo – a binturong. This curious animal is a small mammal that is often described as a ‘bearcat’ due to its striking similarity to both a small bear and a domestic cat.

The young female, named Fig after her favourite food, moved to Paignton Zoo from Cotswold Wildlife Park on Wednesday. She is now settling into her new home near the Ape Centre, in the enclosure that used to house the zoo’s coati. Fig was one of two cubs born at Cotswold Wildlife Park in 2021, and has moved to Paignton Zoo as part of a breeding programme.

Lisa Britton, Curator of Mammals said: “It’s a fantastic space for her, with plenty of opportunities to display natural behaviours up in the trees. We’ll hopefully be bringing in a mate very soon, and we’re looking forward to telling visitors all about these amazing creatures.”

Binturong, also known as bearcats, are neither bears nor cats; they are part of the viverridae family, which includes civets and fossas. They have dark shaggy coats, white whiskers and long tails that they use to grip branches. They spend lots of their time up in the trees, and can even turn their ankles 180 degrees to help them climb.

The most curious fact, however, is that they smell of freshly buttered popcorn. This is because they release an oil from a gland under their tail containing the chemical that gives popcorn its aroma.

Binturong tend to be most active at night, but like to lounge around in the trees and hang out on branches during the day. Visitors to the zoo will need to look up to spot Fig – the new enclosure gives access to several mature trees so there will be scope for climbing way above visitors’ heads.

Binturong are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. As part of conservation charity Wild Planet Trust, Paignton Zoo believe that every species is important, and arrivals like these help to highlight the diversity of species that they are working to protect.

You can catch a glimpse of this interesting new arrival this December at Paignton Zoo. Click here to book tickets to visit.