CIVETS, GENETS, AND LINSANGS – Viverridae

CIVETS, GENETS, AND LINSANGS

CIVETS, GENETS, AND LINSANGS FACTS

Viverrids (civets, genets, and linsangs) have long, slender bodies and short legs. Some have a uniform coloration, while others are marked with spots, bars, or both. The fur is short. The tail, sometimes longer than the body, is bushy and may be ringed with alternating dark and light colors. The snout is pointed, and the ears are erect. Most have five toes on each paw. Viverrids are the only carnivores with perineal (per-uhNEE-uhl) glands (perfume glands between the anus and the genital organs) that produce a strong-smelling substance used for defense, territory marking, and sexual communication. These glands are most developed in civets and genets.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Viverrids are found in western Europe (including France, Portugal, and Spain), Southeast Asia (including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia), and most of Africa.

CIVETS, GENETS, AND LINSANGS HABITAT

Viverrids occupy tropical deciduous forests that provide canopies (uppermost layer of a forest consisting of spreading branches). They also inhabit tall grasses and thick brush for cover. Some prefer wetlands, while others live near rivers and streams.

CIVETS, GENETS, AND LINSANGS DIET

Most viverrids eat rodents, insects, reptiles, frogs, birds, crabs, carrion (dead and decaying flesh), eggs, fruits, and nuts. Palm civets are predominantly frugivores, eating pulpy fruits and berries.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Viverrids are generally solitary, although some may live in pairs or small groups. The palm civet and the African linsang are almost exclusively arboreal (tree-dwelling). The otter civet and the aquatic genet live near rivers and streams.

Most viverrids scent mark territories and tree branches with perineal secretions. They also deposit feces on rocks, topping them with perineal secretions to advertise ownership. Some species produce sounds, including hisses, screams, and coughs. Some breed throughout the year. Others breed during certain seasons. Some may give birth two or three times a year. The average litter size is two to three kittens; up to six may be born. Kittens are born with a full coat, although the markings may not be clear. Males do not share in parenting.

VIVERRIDS AND PEOPLE

Viverrid meat is consumed by some people. Some species are kept as pets to control rodents. Humans sometimes kill those that attack poultry and lambs. Oil from the civet is valued by perfume makers for enhancing the quality of fragrances.

In 2002, an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in southern China was linked to the consumption of masked palm civet. SARS is an infectious, potentially deadly disease. When the World Health Organization announced the end of the SARS outbreak in July 2003, more than 8,000 cases had been reported in 27 countries, with 774 deaths. In January 2004, when SARS resurfaced in China, authorities ordered the killing of all palm civets raised on farms. Other animals, including the raccoon dog and the Chinese ferret badger, also carry the SARS virus. These are not eaten by humans and have not been destroyed.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The IUCN lists eight species as threatened. The Malabar civet is classified as Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction, due to habitat loss, predation, and hunting by humans. The otter civet and the crested genet are listed as Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction, because of habitat loss/degradation, predation, and hunting by humans.

Five species are listed as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction, mostly because of habitat loss/destruction and hunting by humans. These are Owston’s palm civet, Hose’s palm civet, the Malagasy civet, the Sulawesi palm civet, and Jerdon’s palm civet.