Arctictis binturong. Also Asian Bearcat, Palawan Bearcat. Schönbrunn Zoo. 1904 and 1905.
These historic mounts of the rare Asian viverrid hold enormous appeal because of the facial expression and stance, which make the binturongs seem almost alive.
Binturongs, or bearcats, are unusual animals in many respects. They are now considered part of the viverrid family; however they walk not like cats, but like bears, using the entire sole of their foot. Although they are classified as predators, they eat primarily fruit, but occasionally also eat insects, birds, fish, and carrion. The only viverrid and the only higher mammal from the Old World, the binturong also has a prehensile tail.
Apart from this, we know little about the habits of the bearcat, which is native to the thick tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia. As a crepuscular and nocturnal animal, it spends the day curled up in a treetop. It has an exceptional sense of smell and hearing and lives in pairs or small family groups where the female is dominant.
In some areas of Asia, binturongs are kept as pets; they are apparently easy to tame and can become very trusting. Their meat is considered a delicacy and several of their body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine. For this reason, the population has dropped significantly over the last 30 years.
The two specimens at the NHM date back to a time when the species was still common; they both died within a short space of time at Schönbrunn Zoo. It seems likely that the taxidermist at the NHM had the opportunity to see them when they were alive. This explains why he was able to present the two binturongs in such an expressive and lifelike way.