The second World Binturong Day was larger than the first, and a huge success. Since the founding of ABConservation and the instigation of this special day, the binturong has become much better known.
One of the principal aims of ABConservation is to raise the public profile of this impressive viverrid with its prehensile tail. Awareness-raising is important because whilst the binturong remains little-known it is difficult to raise funds and create more significant projects such as research or conservation programmes. Raising money for wildlife species is a long process, and the binturong suffers from being an unfashionable and – some might say – less attractive animal.
Last year, the director of the Jardin des Plantes zoo in Paris (la Ménagerie) was initially sceptical about organising the first World Binturong Day at the zoo. The director was concerned that such an obscure species wouldn’t draw the public; compared with its Asiatic neighbours, the orangutan, gibbon or red panda, the binturong didn’t seem to possess star quality. Nevertheless, he allowed us to organise an outstanding day with a photography contest, an exposition on the species, information posters, and a quiz with a backstage tour of the Ménagerie for the winners. Thanks to Mr Saint Jalme Michel, numerous visitors came especially for the event, despite the uncertain weather.
The ABConservation team has now been welcomed for the second year running at la Ménagerie. This year’s programme included three quizzes for children (again, with a backstage tour for the winner), professional face painters, three workshops on the subject of environmental enrichments*, three presentations by binturong keepers, and of course, a binturong information stall.
New this year was the environmental enrichment workshop*. After an explanation of the concept of enrichment, children could create an edible enrichment for binturongs made up of banana leaves, banana, syrup, papaya and raw eggs. The exercise was conducted so meticulously by our binturong lovers that it seemed like a culinary contest!
The children filled a banana leaf with different ingredients, using the leaf to wrap them before basting the whole parcel with egg and aromatic herbs. The edible treats were then placed in the binturongs’ enclosure just before the keepers’ presentations, allowing people to observe binturongs in action while the presentation took place.
The day allowed us to meet many visitors and raise awareness of the cause of wildlife conservation. ABConservation also raised 700€ in donations, some of which will be used to support a radio-tracking project to study binturongs in Southeast Asia.
Has the binturong attained the status of cute species now? It seems that the answer is yes! In fact, twice as many visitors came this year as last, twice as many people learnt about binturongs, and we have never heard so much about our favourite viverrid!
We would like to thank every zoo that participated in the event but also all those who shared information about World Binturong Day on social media: without you, the day wouldn’t exist, and we’re particularly proud to see it being celebrated all over the world. Thank you.
A special thank you to the Ménagerie’s director, who believed in us, gave us the opportunity to make this a unique day, and supported us to keep moving forward.
And of course, a big thank you to all our volunteers, who made all of this possible. A special thanks to David who represented ABConservation at Saint-Martin-la-Plaine zoo. ABConservation is about volunteering, membership, donations, but most of all passion and solidarity.
*What’s an enrichment?
In zoological parks, animals are held captive and can’t always express the same behaviours they would in the wild. This may create stress for the animal. Environmental enrichment is a term used to describe the means by which zoological parks strive to improve an animal’s welfare by creating an environment that suits its natural behaviour as much as possible.
There are different types of enrichment:
- Food enrichment
This enrichment creates an activity based on food gathering: hiding, dispersing, distributing it at different times, giving entire prey or fruits, etc.
Food gathering is one of the most important activities of an individual in the wild.
- Sensory enrichment
This enrichment is based on sense (visual, acoustic, olfactory, etc.). Numerous carnivores are gifted with a keen sense of smell, which they use to recognize their territory, find prey, communicate, and so on.
- Structural enrichment
In order to encourage exploration, and opportunities for territorial marking, zookeepers may change the layout of the enclosure or regularly change the structures within it.
- Social enrichment
Social enrichments create interactions between animals, both from the same species and with other species. For example, binturongs and otters may be kept together in the same enclosure.
- Cognitive enrichment
This kind of enrichment is set up to develop individual cognitive capacity. For instance, it may take the form of medical training, which has a therapeutic purpose. This allows vets and zookeepers to provide regular medical care for an individual with its willing cooperation, i.e. avoiding anaesthesia.