A civet /ˈsɪvɪt/ is a small, lithe-bodied, mostly nocturnal mammal native to tropical Asia and Africa, especially the tropical forests. The term civet applies to over a dozen different mammal species. Most of the species diversity is found in southeast Asia. The best-known civet species is the African civet, Civettictis civetta, which historically has been the main species from which was obtained a musky scent used in perfumery. The word civet may also refer to the distinctive musky scent produced by the animals.
A minority of writers use "civet" to refer only to Civettictis, Viverra and Viverricula civets. But in more common usage in English, the name also covers Chrotogale, Cynogale, Diplogale, Hemigalus, Arctogalidia, Macrogalidia, Paguma, and Paradoxurus civets.
|African civet (Civettictis civetta)|
The common name is used for a variety of carnivorous mammalian species, mostly of the family Viverridae. The African palm civet (Nandinia binotata) is genetically distinct and belongs in its own monotypic family, Nandiniidae.
Civets are also called "toddycats" in English, "Luwak" in Bahasa Indonesian "musang" in Malay and urulǣvā (උරුලෑවා) in Sinhala. The latter may lead to some confusion among Malay speakers and non-speakers alike as the indigenous word "musang" has been mistakenly appropriated to foxes by certain printed media over the years instead of "rubah", which is the correct but lesser known term. Foxes are not native to Malaysia or Southeast Asia, and are never encountered in that geographical region, although they exist in popular culture imported from the West, where the animal's habitat exists.
Civets have a broadly cat-like general appearance, though the muzzle is extended and often pointed, rather like that of an otter or a mongoose. They range in length from about 43 to 71 cm (17 to 28 in) (excluding their long tails) and in weight from about 1.4 to 4.5 kg (3 to 10 lb).
The civet produces a musk (also called civet) highly valued as a fragrance and stabilizing agent for perfume. Both male and female civets produce the strong-smelling secretion, which is produced by the civet's perineal glands. It is harvested by either killing the animal and removing the glands, or by scraping the secretions from the glands of a live animal. The latter is the preferred method today.
Animal rights groups, such as World Animal Protection, express concern that harvesting musk is cruel to animals. Between these ethical concerns and the availability of synthetic substitutes, the practice of raising civets for musk is dying out. Chanel, maker of the popular perfume Chanel No. 5, claims that natural civet has been replaced with a synthetic substitute since 1998.
Viverrids are native to sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, the Iberian Peninsula, southern China, South and Southeast Asia. Favoured habitats include woodland, savanna, and mountain biome. In consequence, many are faced with severe loss of habitat; several species are considered vulnerable and the otter civet is classified as endangered. Some species of civet are very rare and elusive and hardly anything is known about them, e.g., the Hose's civet, endemic to the montane forests of northern Borneo, is one of the world's least known carnivores.
In Sri Lanka, the Asian palm civet species is known as "uguduwa" by the Sinhala speaking community. The terms uguduwa and kalawedda are used interchangeably by the Sri Lankan community to refer to the same animal. However, the term kalawedda is mostly used to refer to another species in the civet family, the small Indian civet.
Sri Lanka also has an endemic civet species called golden palm civet. Recently this species was split into 3 separate endemic species as Paradoxurus montanus, P. aureus, and P. stenocephalus. In Bangladesh and Bengali-speaking areas of India, civets are known as "khatash" (Bengali: খাটাশ) for the smaller species and "bagdash" (Bengali: বাগডাশ) for the larger ones and is now extremely rare in Bangladesh (in the Khulna area of the country, the animal is also known as "shairel"). In Assamese this animal is known as "zohamola" (Assamese: জহামলা) which literally means "to have zoha aromatic feces".
Kopi Luwak is also called caphe cut chon (fox-dung coffee), in Vietnam, and kape alamid, in the Philippines. It is coffee that is prepared using coffee cherries that have been eaten and partly digested by the Asian palm civet, then harvested from its fecal matter. The civets digest the flesh of the coffee cherries but pass the pits (beans) inside, where stomach enzymes affect the beans, which adds to the coffee's prized aroma and flavor. 0.5 kg (1 lb) can cost up to $600 in some parts of the world and about $100 a cup in others.
The Malay civet is found in many habitats, including forests, secondary habitats, cultivated land, and the outskirts of villages, and is highly adaptable to human disturbances, including "selecting logging" (partial forest removal).
African civets (Civettictis civetta) are listed as Least Concern, but in certain regions of Africa the population is declining due to hunting, both direct and indirect poisoning, and an increase in large scale farm fences that limit population flow. They are also seen as comparatively abundant options in the bushmeat trade.
Palm civets often venture into cities and suburbs, with people often complaining about civet feces and the noise of the animals' climbing on roofs. Some studies have been undertaken to examine and mitigate such human–animal conflict.
The African civet (; Civettictis civetta) is a large viverrid native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it is considered common and widely distributed in woodlands and secondary forests. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2008. In some countries, it is threatened by hunting, and wild-caught individuals are kept for producing civetone for the perfume industry.The African civet is primarily nocturnal and spends the day sleeping in dense vegetation, but wakes up at sunset. It is a solitary mammal with a unique coloration: the black and white stripes and blotches covering its coarse pelage are an effective cryptic pattern. The black bands surrounding its eyes closely resemble those of the raccoon. Other distinguishing features are its disproportionately large hindquarters and its erectile dorsal crest. It is an omnivorous generalist, preying on small vertebrates, invertebrates, eggs, carrion, and vegetable matter. It is capable of killing venomous invertebrates and snakes. Prey is primarily detected by smell and sound rather than by sight. It is the sole member of its genus.African palm civet
The African palm civet (Nandinia binotata), also known as the two-spotted palm civet, is a small feliform mammal widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.Asian palm civet
The Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) is a small viverrid native to South and Southeast Asia. Since 2008, it is IUCN Red Listed as Least Concern as it is tolerant of a broad range of habitats. It is widely distributed with large populations that in 2008 were thought unlikely to be declining. In 2012, it was suggested that recent increases in capturing the animals for kopi luwak (civet coffee) production may constitute a significant threat to wild palm civet populations.Banded palm civet
The banded palm civet (Hemigalus derbyanus), also called the banded civet, is a civet found in the Sundaic region and occurs in peninsular Myanmar, peninsular Malaysia, peninsular Thailand and in Indonesia on the islands of Sipura, Sumatra and Borneo. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List because of its large geographic and elevation range and tolerance to some habitat disturbance.Hemigalus is a monospecific genus that was first named and described by the French zoologist Claude Jourdan in 1837.Brown palm civet
The brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni) also called the Jerdon's palm civet is a palm civet endemic to the Western Ghats of India.Golden palm civet
The golden palm civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis) is a palm civet endemic to Sri Lanka. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Its distribution is severely fragmented, and the extent and quality of its habitat in Sri Lanka's hill regions are declining.Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet (Diplogale hosei), also known as Hose's civet, is a viverrid species endemic to the island of Borneo. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable because of an ongoing population decline, estimated to be more than 30% over the last three generations (inferred to be 15 years) and suspected to be more than 30% in the next three generations due to declines in population inferred from habitat destruction and degradation.Diplogale is a monospecific genus.
Hose's palm civet was named after the zoologist Charles Hose by Oldfield Thomas in 1892. Hose collected the first specimen in Sarawak in 1891.What little is known of the species comes primarily from 17 museum specimens worldwide. Only in 1997, the first living specimen was obtained and released after 2 months – there remains no Hose’s civet in captivity anywhere in the world.Kopi luwak
Kopi luwak (Indonesian pronunciation: [ˈkopi ˈlu.aʔ]), or civet coffee, is coffee that includes partially digested coffee cherries, eaten and defecated by the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). Fermentation occurs as the cherries pass through a civet's intestines, and after being defecated with other fecal matter, they are collected.
Producers of the coffee beans argue that the process may improve coffee through two mechanisms, selection – civets choosing to eat only certain cherries – and digestion – biological or chemical mechanisms in the animal's digestive tract altering the composition of the coffee cherries.
The traditional method of collecting feces from wild civets has given way to intensive farming methods in which civets in battery cage systems are force-fed the cherries. This method of production has raised ethical concerns about the treatment of civets due to "horrific conditions" including isolation, poor diet, small cages and a high mortality rate.Although kopi luwak is a form of processing rather than a variety of coffee, it has been called one of the most expensive coffees in the world, with retail prices reaching €550 / US$700 per kilogram.Kopi luwak is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago. It is also widely gathered in the forest or produced in the farms in the islands of the Philippines (where the product is called kape motit in the Cordillera region, kapé alamíd in Tagalog areas, kapé melô or kapé musang in Mindanao island, and kahawa kubing in the Sulu Archipelago), and in East Timor (where it is called kafé-laku). Weasel coffee is a loose English translation of its Vietnamese name cà phê Chồn.Large Indian civet
The large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha) is a civet native to South and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. The global population is considered decreasing mainly because of trapping-driven declines in heavily hunted and fragmented areas, notably in China, and the heavy trade as wild meat.Malabar large-spotted civet
The Malabar large-spotted civet (Viverra civettina), also known as the Malabar civet, is a viverrid endemic to the Western Ghats of India. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List as the population is estimated to number fewer than 250 mature individuals, with no subpopulation greater than 50 individuals.
In the early 1990s, isolated populations still survived in less disturbed areas of South Malabar but were seriously threatened by habitat destruction and hunting outside protected areas.It is known as Kannan chandu and Male meru in Kerala വെരുക് (veruk) in Malayalam, and in Karnataka as Mangala kutri, Bal kutri and Dodda punugina.Malagasy civet
The Malagasy or striped civet (Fossa fossana), also known as the fanaloka (Malagasy, [fə̥ˈnaluk]) or jabady, is an euplerid endemic to Madagascar.The Malagasy civet is a small mammal, about 47 centimetres (19 in) long excluding the tail (which is only about 20 centimetres (7.9 in)). It can weigh 1.5 to 2.0 kilograms (3.3 to 4.4 lb). It is endemic to the tropical forests of Madagascar. Malagasy civets are nocturnal. It eats small vertebrates, insects, aquatic animals, and eggs stolen from birds' nests. The mating season of the Malagasy civet is August to September and the gestation period is three months, ending with the birth of one young. The Malagasy Civet is listed as Vulnerable by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).Malayan civet
The Malay civet (Viverra tangalunga), also known as the Malayan civet and Oriental civet, is a viverrid native to the Malay Peninsula and the islands of Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, the Riau Archipelago, and the Philippines. It is listed as "Least Concern" by IUCN as it is a relatively widely distributed, appears to be tolerant of degraded habitats, and occurs in a number of protected areas.Masked palm civet
The masked palm civet or gem-faced civet (Paguma larvata) is a civet species native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It is classified by IUCN in 2008 as Least Concern as it occurs in many protected areas, is tolerant to some degree of habitat modification, and widely distributed with presumed large populations that are unlikely to be declining.The genus Paguma was first named and described by John Edward Gray in 1831. All described forms are regarded as a single species.In recent times, masked palm civets were considered to be a likely vector of SARS.Otter civet
The otter civet (Cynogale bennettii) is a semiaquatic civet native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. It is listed as Endangered because of a serious ongoing population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the past three generations (estimated to be 15 years), inferred from direct habitat destruction, and indirect inferred declines due to pollutants.Cynogale is a monospecific genus.Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet (Chrotogale owstoni) is a civet native to Vietnam, Laos and southern China. It is listed as Endangered by IUCN because of an ongoing population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the last three generations, inferred from over-exploitation, habitat destruction and degradation.Chrotogale is a monospecific genus. Owston's palm civet is named after the wildlife collector Alan Owston.Paradoxurus
Paradoxurus is a genus within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. As of 2005, this genus was defined as comprising three species native to Southeast Asia:
the Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)
the golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
the brown palm civet (P. jerdoni)In 2009, it was proposed to also include the golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus), the Sri Lankan brown palm civet (P. montanus) and the golden dry-zone palm civet (P. stenocephalus), which are endemic to Sri Lanka.Small-toothed palm civet
The small-toothed palm civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata), also known as the three-striped palm civet, is a palm civet. It lives in dense forests of southeast Asia, from the Assam district of India to Indochina and the Malay Peninsula and on Sumatra, Bangka, Java, Borneo, and numerous small nearby islands of Indonesia.
A monotypic genus, Arctogalidia means ‘bear-weasel’ (from ancient Greek arkto- ‘bear’ + galidia ‘little weasel’). The specific epithet trivirgata means ‘three-striped’ in Latin.
The small-toothed palm civet is mid-sized by the standards of its family, weighing 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) and measuring 53 cm (21 in) long along the body, plus a tail of 58 cm (23 in). It has short fur that is generally a tawny or buff color while the head is a darker greyish tawny. Its muzzle is brown with a white streak that extends from the nose to the forehead. The back has three distinct black or dark brown stripes running along the length of the body. Only the females have the perineal scent gland, located near the vulva.
The diet is varied and omnivorous, and usually consists of insects, small mammals, nesting birds, fruits, frogs and lizards. Matching the habits of other palm civets, this species is solitary, arboreal and nocturnal. Its gestation period is 45 days, and the average litter size is 3, which are born in dens made in the trees. Young open their eyes at 11 days and are weaned at two months. It can have two litters a year and there is no set mating season. It can live for 11 years. It is threatened primarily by deforestation, as are many Southeast Asian forest animals.Small Indian civet
The small Indian civet (Viverricula indica) is a civet native to South and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List because of its widespread distribution, widespread habitat use and healthy populations living in agricultural and secondary landscapes of many range states.The small Indian civet is a monotypic genus.Viverridae
Viverridae is a family of small to medium-sized mammals, the viverrids (), comprising 15 genera, which are subdivided into 38 species. This family was named and first described by John Edward Gray in 1821. Members of this family are commonly called civets or genets. Viverrids are found in South and Southeast Asia, across the Wallace Line, all over Africa, and into southern Europe. Their occurrence in Sulawesi and in some of the adjoining islands shows them to be ancient inhabitants of the Old World tropics.
Extant Carnivora species