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Zoo gets new bearcat
new slt bearcat
This 2-month-old binturong just arrived at the Great Bend-Brit Spaugh Zoo. It will be ready to meet the public in about a month. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo has a new animal — a 2-month-old binturong (BIN-tu-rong), commonly known as a bearcat. Zoo Director Scott Gregory said she will be kept in quarantine for about four weeks, which is the policy for any new animal. After that, she will become an education animal, which means she’ll be able to travel with zoo staff for community programs.

The binturong is not a common zoo animal. The San Diego Zoo website claims it looks “like something Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up.” It has a face like a cat and a body like a bear – but is actually related to the civet. It has long shaggy black hair, stiff white whiskers and a tail as long as its body. It has a prehensile tail, meaning it can be used for grasping and holding, although a bearcat doesn’t swing from the trees by its tail like a monkey.

And, all binturongs smell like popcorn or corn chips, Gregory said.

Brit Spaugh Zoo acquired a binturong late in 2010 from Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, N.D., but it was around 17 years old, and near the end of its lifespan. It died of cancer in 2012. This one comes to Great Bend courtesy of the Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard.

The Great Bend Zoological Society paid for half of the cost of the animal, with the City of Great Bend paying the other half.
Zoo Curator Nicole Benz said the binturong hasn’t been named yet. Plans for a promotion with naming rights will be announced.
Binturongs are from the tropical rain forests of Southeast Asia.