African Civets (Civettictis civetta): Non-Ringtails of Sub-Saharan Africa

by DerdriuMarriner

African civets avoid northernmost and southernmost Africa. They otherwise favor sub-Saharan Africa, from west coast to east. They have super-black faces and super-large rumps.

Practical and pragmatic acknowledge the African civet’s essence. Appearance and behavior back up conflict-avoiding, results-oriented life cycles and natural histories. Self-defense and sustainability become top priorities.

• A black raccoon-like mask bespeaks camouflage and fright.

• A dark, dense mane whose individual hairs measure 4.73 inches (12 centimeters) long bristles from shoulder blades to tail tip.

• Darkened, stocky limbs end in five-digited paws, whose curved claws look fierce despite frustrating agile climbing, digging, and scratching.

• Broad, long bodies look as big as they are and bigger because of longer rear limbs raising and showcasing super-large hindquarters that nobody and nothing willingly chooses to sit under.

• But most of all, scent glands make African civets super-smelly to competitors and predators.

African Civet, under synonym of Viverra civetta: drawn for collection in Museo Cartaceo ("Paper Museum") of Italian scholar/patron of arts Cassiano dal Pozzo (February 21, 1588 - October 22, 1657)

c. 1630 watercolor and body color heightened with gum Arabic over black chalk, attributed to Vincenzo Leonardi (active c. 1621 - 1646)
In collection purchased in 1762 by George III (June 4, 1738 - January 29, 1820)
In collection purchased in 1762 by George III (June 4, 1738 - January 29, 1820)

 

A musky odor indeed announces the presence of African civets. It comes from two scent glands which are located near the reproductive organs of African civet females and males. The glands do not look like anything more than sensitive, subtle corporeal swellings. Each gland generally does not exceed 1.18 inches (3 centimeters) in length and 0.79 inches (2 centimeters) in width. The musk-makers weekly deliver 0.14 ounces (4 grams) of civetone. In the wild, the strong-smelling liquid releases go into:

  • Communicating olfactorily -- at the information-sharing height of 12.21 – 15.36 inches (31 – 39 centimeters) above the ground – on rocks and trees;
  • Covering competitors and predators with smells which persist for 3 months;
  • Marking home and territory ranges.  

 

African Civet, under synonym of Viverra civetta

Richard Lydekker, A Hand-Book to the Carnivora, Part I (1896), Plate XXVII, opp. p. 211
Richard Lydekker, A Hand-Book to the Carnivora, Part I (1896), Plate XXVII, opp. p. 211

 

Deep growls, frightening screams, and spit-filled coughs are the vocalizations which Asian civets use to supplement predominating informational and social communication by:

  • Body language;
  • Eye movements;
  • Physical contact;
  • Scented releases.

Scientists associate their application and their context with guard-duty calls and imminent situations of:

  • Alarm concerning home invaders and territory intruders;
  • Attack involving mammalian competitors or predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles;
  • Avoidance regarding outnumbered or unnecessary conflicts over territorial resources and transportation networks.

They attribute less stressful roles and more common occurrences to the sounds Ha! Ha! Ha! The thrice-repeated vocalization emerges as a contact response. It is heard whenever two African civets meet in the same place at the same time with the same socializing intents. 

 

African Civet, possible subspecies Civettictis civetta poortmanni, from Quiah Kquoja or Koya), modern-day northwestern Sierra Leone

drawn from life by Joseph Smit (July 18, 1836 – November 4, 1929)
"April 18, 1871: Dr. E. Hamilton, F.Z.S., in the Chair" (1871), Plate XXIX, opp. p. 299
"April 18, 1871: Dr. E. Hamilton, F.Z.S., in the Chair" (1871), Plate XXIX, opp. p. 299

 

The life cycles and natural histories of African civets demand loose solidarity among adults whose single occupancies and solitary responsibilities change during bi- or tri-annual mating seasons. The sixty-five-day gestation begins with the mother-to-be organizing a nested den in a vegetation-shrouded burrow built and vacated by a non-civet species. She delivers 1 – 4 offspring per litter. All newborns emerge:

  • Capable of crawling until rear limbs support body weight at 5 days;
  • Covered with dark, short, soft fur which vaguely hints at the subsequently striking mature spotted and striped patterning.

They manage:

  • Game-playing at 14 days;
  • Hunting at 17 - 18 days;
  • Non-milky diets at 42 days.

Females and males respectively mature sexually at 365 and 213 days. 

 

African Civet, under synonym of Viverra civetta: skeleton and skull ~

illustration by Joseph Wilhelm Eduard d’Alton (August 11, 1772 – May 11, 1840)
C.H. Pander and E. d'Alton, Die skelete der raubthiere abgebildet und verlichen von Dr. E. D'Alton, Plate IV, after p.12
C.H. Pander and E. d'Alton, Die skelete der raubthiere abgebildet und verlichen von Dr. E. D'Alton, Plate IV, after p.12

 

Physical and sexual maturity confers:

  • Dentition of 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, 8 molars;
  • Ear lengths of 2.13 – 2.28 inches (5.4 – 5.8 centimeters);
  • Head-and-body lengths of 26.38 – 33.07 inches (67 – 84 centimeters);
  • Shoulder heights of 15.75 inches (40 centimeters);
  • Tail lengths of 13.39 – 18.50 inches (34 – 47 centimeters);
  • Weights of 15.43 – 44.09 pounds (7 – 20 kilograms).

It does not improve bear-like plantigrade (“flat-footed”) locomotion on hairless central pads and hairy digital and palmar pads. It does perfect:

  • Denning in nestless, super-vegetated thickets;
  • Eating super-decayed carrion, super-poisonous millipedes, and super-strychnine-filled fruits;
  • Frequenting communal latrines;
  • Hunting arthropods (especially beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, termites), carrion, eggs, figs, and small birds and reptiles;
  • Identifying escape routes;
  • Severing a prey’s spinal column. 

 

African Civet (Civettictis civetta), under synonym of Viverra civetta:

illustration by Jacques de Sève (active 1742 - 1788)
Johann Christian Daniel Schreber, Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur: Plates 81 - 165 (1774 - 1846), Plate CXI
Johann Christian Daniel Schreber, Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur: Plates 81 - 165 (1774 - 1846), Plate CXI

 

The denning, foraging, and mating habits of African civets demand dense vegetation for sheltering and permanent water for swimming. They do not involve interior, mature forests. The ground-dwelling, night-active, opportunistic-feeding, pest-controlling, seed-dispersing obligate environmentalists in question find biological needs met:

  • Amid secondary-growth vegetation;
  • Alongside rivers penetrating arid lands;
  • At lowland and montane altitudes up to 16,404.2 feet (5,000 meters) above sea level;
  • In the dense thickets, high grasses, and reed beds of forest, jungle, savanna, scrub, swamp, and woodland mosaics;
  • On logging tracks into primary-growth forests.

Successful overlaps of bio-geographical resources and biological requirements may be attested by a species division into subspecies whose distribution range links with specific bio-geographies and whose physical features exhibit subtle variations. 

 

Habitat range of the African civet

Distribution of the African Civet according to the IUCN
Distribution of the African Civet according to the IUCN

 

Bio-geographical and biological congruence find themselves attested in trinomial (“three-name”) taxonomy. African civets merit subdivision of the genus and species Civettictis civetta (civetone weasel). They subdivide as follows:

  • civetta -- Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameron, Centrafrique, Chad, Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo (Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber [January 17, 1739 – December 10, 1810], 1776)
  • australis -- Angola, Botswana, Namibia, volkmanni – South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe (B.G. Lundholm, 1955);
  • congica -- Congo-Kinshasa, South Sudan, Sudan, schwarzi -- Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Ruwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar (Ángel Cabrera [February 19, 1879 – July 8, 1960], 1929);
  • pauli – Djibouti (Dieter Kock, Thomas Kunzel, Houssein Abdillahi Rayaleh, 2000.

 

African Civet's iconic ecosystems: aerial view of Victoria Falls (Tokaleya Tonga: Mosi-oa-Tunya, "smoke that thunders"), with rainbow in lower right

Zambezi River, border of southwestern Zambia and northwestern Zimbabwe
Zambezi River, border of southwestern Zambia and northwestern Zimbabwe

Conclusion: A solitary genus' enjoyment of Sub-Saharan bicoastal ecosystems despite desirability in bushmeat and civetone markets

 

Bio-geographical and physical subtleties do not make one African civet subspecies unrecognizable from another. All subspecies have:

  • Beady, small eyes;

  • Black- or brown-spotted, red-brown, silver, yellow snarly, unique-patterned, wiry coats;

  • Broad, double-striped necks;

  • Bushy, dark tails with 5 incomplete white rings;

  • Chaotic-spotted backs and rumps;

  • Clawed, compact paws;

  • Dark-and-light, pointed muzzles;

  • Dark-edged streaking from shoulders to rounded, small ears;

  • Darkened chests, lower-limbs, paws, and throats;

  • Heavy, long skulls;

  • Pronounced zygomatic (cheekbone) arches;

  • Slightly set-back toes.

They unexpectedly hold heads low and rumps high. They all know what it is like to be:

  • Domesticated;

  • Homeless;

  • Scent-scraped;

  • Snare-trapped;

  • Starving.

They all need:

  • Governmental protection;

  • Scientific prioritization;

  • Wildlife-loving activism.

 

African Civet's iconic faunal and lacustrine landscapes: Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, major breeding site for lesser (Phoenicopterus minor) and greater (Phoenicopterus roseus) flamingos

northeastern Botswana, southern Africa
northeastern Botswana, southern Africa

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks for:

  • Fine images that are made available on the Internet by talented photographers/concerned organizations;
  • Superior on-campus and on-line resources through Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

 

Cute Baby Civet ~ A small baby African Civet, hand-reared by zookeepers in Johannesburg Zoo, South Africa, will be reunited with its mother after weaning from bottle feeding.

Uploaded to YouTube on April 2, 2009 by uzoouk ~ URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQEA5mb78NA

Sources Consulted

 

“African Civet Pictures and Facts.” The Website of Everything: Animals > Mammals > Carnivora > Viverridae > Viverrinae > Civettictis. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Carnivora/Viverridae/Civettictis/Civettictis-civetta.html

"April 18, 1871: Dr. E. Hamilton, F.Z.S., in the Chair." 1871. Proceedings of the Scientific Meetings of the Zoological Society of London for the Year 1871: 298 - 299.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: http://www.archive.org/stream/proceedingsofgen71zool#page/298/mode/1up

Arnold, Michael L. 2008. Reticulate Evolution and Humans: Origins and Ecology. Oxford University Press.

Bell, D.; Roberton, S.; and Hunter, P. R. 2004. "Animal Origins of SARS Coronavirus: Possible Links with the International Trade in Small Carnivores." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences 359:1107-1114.

Bisby, F.A.; Roskov, Y.R.; Orrell, T.M.; Nicolson, D.; Paglinawan, L.E.; Bailly, N.; Kirk, P.M.; Bourgoin, T.; Baillargeon, G.; and Ouvrard, D. (red.). 2011. "Civettictis civetta (Schreber, 1776)." Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist. Reading, UK. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=621988&search_kingdom=every&search_span=exactly_for&categories=All&source=html&search_credRating=All

Boelens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; and Grayson, Michael. 2009. The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. Johns Hopkins University. 

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Species Sheet: African Civet Cat." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/38?indice=Civettictis+civetta

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet: Central African Civet Palm." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+congica

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet [Civettictis civetta orientalis]." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+orientalis

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet [Civettictis civetta poortmanni]." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+poortmanni

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet [Civettictis civetta volkmanni]." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+volkmanni

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet: Djibouti Civet Cat." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+pauli

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet: Eastern Civet Palm." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+schwarzi

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet: Southern African Civet Cat." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+australis

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Subspecies Sheet: Western Civet Palm." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.planet-mammiferes.org/drupal/en/node/39?indice=Civettictis+civetta+civetta

Cassell's Universal Portrait Gallery: A Collection of Portraits of Celebrities, English and Foreign. With Facsimile Autographs. 1895. London, Paris & Melbourne: Cassell and Company, Limited.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/details/cassellsuniversa00londiala

"Civettictis civetta (African Civet Cat)." ZipcodeZoo: Species Identifier 128438. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://zipcodezoo.com/animals/c/civettictis_civetta/

Civettictis civetta (Schreber, 1776).” The Marine Biological Universal Biological Indexer and Organizer. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.ubio.org/browser/details.php?namebankID=105797

Driver, Stephanie (ed.). 2008. Exploring Mammals, Volume 3. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation.

Duff, Andrew; and Lawson, Ann. 2004. Mammals of the World: A Checklist. Yale University Press.

Ewer, R.F. 1998. The Carnivores. Cornell University Press: Cornell Paperbacks.

Gaubert, P.; and Cordeiro-Estrela, P. 2006. “Phylogenetic Systematics and Tempo of Evolution of the Viverrinae (Mammalia, Carnivora, Viverridae) within Feliformians: Implications for Faunal Exchanges between Asia and Africa.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41:266-278.

Gervais, Paul. 1855. Histoire naturelle des Mammifères: Carnivores, Proboscidiens, Jumentés, Bisulques, Édentés, Marsupiaux, Monotrèmes, Phoques, Sirénides et Cétacés. Paris: L. Curmer.

Gittleman, John L.; Funk, Stephan M.; Macdonald, David; and Wayne, Robert K. (eds.). 2001. Carnivore Conservation. Cambridge University Press: Conservation Biology 5.

Hayssen, Virginia; Van Tienhoven, Ari; and Van Tienoven, Ans. Asdell’s Patterns of Mammalian Reproduction: A Compendium of Species-Specific Data. Cornell University, 1993.

Hunter, Luke; and Barrett, Priscilla. 2011. A Field Guide to the Carnivores of the World. London, Cape Town, Sydney, Auckland: New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd.

Jennings, A. P.; and Veron, J. 2009. "Family Viverridae (Civets, Genets, and Oyans)." In: Don E. Wilson and Russel Mittermeier (Hrsg.) Handbook of the Mammals of the World Volume 1: Carnivores. Lynx Edicions.

Kondo, H.; Tesar, J.; Cloud, D.; Kagan, L. (eds.). 1972. Civets, Genets, and Linsangs, Volume 2, 3rd Edition. Milan: Fratelli Fabbri Editori.

Larivière, Serge. 2004. "African Civet: Civettictis civetta." P. 340 in Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Second Edition. Volume 14: Mammals III, edited by Michael Hutchins, Devra G. Kleiman, Valerius Geist, and Melissa C. McDade. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, Inc., division of Thomson Learning Inc.

Lundholm, B.G. 1955. "Descriptions of New Mammals." Annals of the Transvaal Museum 279-303.

Lydekker, Richard. 1896. A Hand-Book to the Carnivora. Part I. Lloyd's Natural History. London: Edward Lloyd, Limited.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/14819662

Miles, A.E.W.; and Grigson, Caroline (eds.). 1990. Colyer's Variations and Diseases of the Teeth of Animals. Cambridge University Press.

Nowak, Ronald M. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Volume I. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Pander, C.H. (Christian Heinrich) and E. d'Alton. 1822. "Die skelete der raubthiere abgebildet und verlichen von Dr. E. D'Alton." Die vergleichende Osteologie: Erste Abtheilung Osteologie der Säugethiere, Lieferung III. Bonn: In Commission bei Eduard Weber.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/40170366

Ray, J. 1995. "Civettictis civetta." Mammalian Species 488:1-7.

Ray, J.; Gaubert, P.; and Hoffmann, M. 2008. "Civettictis civetta." In: IUCN 2014. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/41695/0

Rosevear, D.R. 1974. The Carnivores of West Africa. London, England: British Museum (Natural History). 

Schreber, Johann Christian Daniel von. 1774 - 1846. Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur: Plates 81 - 165. Erlangen :Expedition des Schreber'schen säugthier- und des Esper'schen Schmetterlingswerkes.

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://biodiversitylibrary.org/page/31064528

Schreiber, A.; Wirth, R.; Riffel, M.; and Van Rompaey, H. 1989. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and Their Relatives. An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Tuteja, Shalu. 2000. "Civettictis civetta: African Civet (On-line)." Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved October 1, 2014.

  • Available at: http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Civettictis_civetta/

Veron, Geraldine. 2010. “Phylogeny of the Viverridae and ‘Viverrid-like’ Feliforms.” Pp. 64-90 in Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form and Function edited by Anjali Goswami and Anthony Friscia. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge Studies in Morphology and Molecules.

Wilson, Don E.; and Cole, F. Russell. 2000. Common Names of Mammals of the World. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.

Wilson, Don E.; and Reeder, DeeAnn M. (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed), Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wrobel, Murray (Editor). 2007. Elsevier's Dictionary of Mammals: Latin English German French Italian. Oxford, U.K.: Elsevier B.V.

 

African Civet's iconic geographic landscape: White Nile River and Sudd Swamp, extensive floodplain of 340 miles (540 kilometers) from Uganda border to Malakal, northeastern South Sudan ~

northernmost Sudd Swamp: confluence of Bahr el Jebel (White Nile River) and a main tributary, Bahr al Ghazal, which joins White Nile 80 miles (130 km) west of Malakal, NE South Sudan
northernmost Sudd Swamp: confluence of Bahr el Jebel (White Nile River) and a main tributary, Bahr al Ghazal, which joins White...
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Mountain Jungle Eyes: green t-shirt ~ Available via Amazon

Jungle travelers may never know that they are being quietly watched by "invisible" jungle dwellers, such as African Civets.
wildlife t-shirt

Jungle Eyes: green t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

Jungle Eyes
Ad AllPosters

The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates by Richard Despard Estes,

Whether we are able to look at them face to face, on television, or in the hundreds of illustrations provided here by Daniel Otte, this guide allows us to understand what animals do and what their behavior means.
African Civets in books

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine:

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: 10/07/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?
2

Comments


   Login

You might also like

Schouteden's Genets (Genetta schoutedeni): Ringtails of Centra...

Rusty-spotted panther genets have many subspecies. They range widely in sub-S...

African Linsangs (Poiana richardsonii): Ringtails of Central-W...

Spots and stripes face a controversial fashion history. Some fashionistas lik...


Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...
Error!