On Sunday 26th August, we leave Paris early in the morning, heading to the Zoo de Lille which is nestled just next to the city’s Citadel. Once we arrive at the zoo, we are greeted and led near the binturong enclosure where we will set up our information stand.
This 3-hectare park is home to many species including a couple of binturongs: Zim, born at the Zoo de Lille a few years ago, and Gala, from the Zoo de La Barben. They share their enclosure with the small-clawed otters.
Just as we start setting up our booth, our 3 Belgian volunteers (Michèle, Nicole and Yves) arrive to give us a hand.
Around 10am, the head keeper Elodie comes by, bringing us part of the binturongs’ daily feed ration we will use to create enrichment. She tells us they hardly ever move, even when enrichment is provided. Binturongs being nocturnal, it’s not an issue if they don’t move around, but still we brought some exotic fruits they don’t usually get here, hoping they will be temped by new food.
Around 11.30am, visitors begin to come in, we start showing them how we make the enrichment items (we hide some food inside a cardboard box with crinkle paper filler and inside a large banana leaf). Elodie joins us a few minutes later to put them inside the enclosure. Surprisingly, Gala wakes up and starts sniffing around, although she’s rarely active during daytime, she stretches and moves towards the large box. Observing Gala’s activity is a good opportunity for us to talk about the species to the visitors: how it uses its prehensile tail, its popcorn-like smell, its ecological role in its natural habitat (dissemination of seeds), then we underline the issues it faces in Southeast Asia, as binturongs are threatened by deforestation and illegal pet trade.
We repeat the process 3 times during the day, Zim and Gala are just as responsive every time.
During this event we had the chance to meet many French visitors as well as a few tourists from abroad, including China, Japan, the USA, and of course Belgium. Most of them had never heard of the binturong, and regular visitors of the zoo had never seen this animal active. The coloring sheets and printed masks are very popular as usual, and a long binturong board game takes place in the afternoon.
Around 3.30pm, we have to pack up everything because it starts raining. We give the last food enrichment item to Adeline and quietly observe, in the rain, if our gifts still please their recipients.
We leave the park earlier than planned, but as always we are happy we could share our knowledge and make the binturong a bit more known around us.
Many thanks to the entire team of the Zoo de Lille for their welcome, thanks to Romain for the upstream organization, and to Elodie and Adeline for their support during the day.