Banded Palm Civets (Hemigalus derbyanus): Ringtails of Borneo, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand

by DerdriuMarriner

Banded palm civets are not among the spotted civets. They have musky-smelling, striped bodies. They especially like living near palm trees on insular and mainland Southeast Asia.

Africa's and Asia's native wildlife includes civets.
• Many people know of civets as sources of fragrant, musky perfume stabilizers.
• Others link civets with wildlife whose fashion statements generally do not make it to the runway: spots and stripes together.

But scientists look to additional hallmarks since all civets have scent glands but not all have spots and stripes.
• For example, banded palm civets mix fox-like muzzles, mongoose-like limbs, raccoon-like tails, and squirrel-like ankles on striped but unspotted bodies.
• In line with general civet behavior, they refrain from conflict with predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles.
• They also resist preying upon vertebrates despite their scientific grouping with carnivores.
• They tend to elude observation away from their favorite palm trees.

Banded palm civet under previous synonym of Hardwicke's hemigale (Hemigale hardwickei)

Richard Lydekker, A Handbook of the Carnivora (1896), Plate XXIX, opp. p. 227
Richard Lydekker, A Handbook of the Carnivora (1896), Plate XXIX, opp. p. 227

 

Southeast Asia accommodates native populations of banded palm civets. Banded palm civets can be found on islands and the mainland, at:

  • Indonesia;

  • Peninsular Malaysia;

  • Peninsular Myanmar around Bankachon in the former Tenasserim Division of the current Tanintharyi Region;

  • Peninsular Thailand.

Most banded palm civets do not frequent tiny islands. But sustainable populations in fact exist not only on bigger but also on smaller islands. For example, banded palm civets inhabit resource-rich, spacious portions of Indonesia at:

  • Kalimantan (Indonesian portion of Borneo);

  • Sumatra.

But they also live on two of the 70+ diminutive islands which make up the Indian Ocean's Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra:

  • Pagai Selatan (“South Pagai”);

  • Sipura.

 

 

Like genets and linsangs, civets avoid conflict with predators. They generally claim different niches when habitats overlap with fellow civets. For example, banded palm civets favor evergreen lowland primary rainforests with tall trees. They get accustomed to:

  • Acacia plantations;

  • Altitudes up to 1,968.5 – 3,937 feet (600 – 1,200 meters);

  • Peat swamp forests.

They get used to such protected areas as:

  • Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra;

  • Kinabalu and Similajau National Parks and Poring Hot Springs, Malaysian Borneo;

  • Taman Negara National Park, Malay Peninsula;

  • World's oldest (130,000,000+ years old) rainforest at Belum-Temengor Forest Reserve, peninsular Malaysia and Thailand.

They move into degraded habitats near undisturbed forests. They never occupy secondary-growth forests.

 

banded palm civet (Hemigalus derbyanus): in captivity

Cincinnati Zoo
Cincinnati Zoo

 

Regardless of bio-geography, banded palm civets articulate recognizable behaviors and looks. They commit to low-profile life cycles and natural histories through information-sharing by sight, smell, sound, and touch over vocalizations. They communicate alertness with:

  • Attentive, rounded ears;

  • Black, forward-pointing neck back-hairs;

  • Dark-adapted, large eyes.

They convey agility with super-fast ascents, descents, jumps, and leaps on muscular, trim limbs. They display sustainability with 40 teeth and 20 curved, retractile claws for consuming orthopterans (crickets, grasshoppers, locusts) and worms. They epitomize camouflage-ability with:

  • Buff under-sides;

  • Dark eye-rings and nose-to-nape streaking;

  • Orange-white upper-sides;

  • Pale patches separating 4 – 5 transverse stripes;

  • 2 broken/unbroken nape to upper fore-limb super-stripes;

  • 2 tail-base stripes.   

 

Owston's banded palm civet (Chrotogale owstoni): sometimes Owston's civets are confused with Banded Palm Civets.

Rare Species Conservation Centre, Sandwich, Kent, South-East England
Rare Species Conservation Centre, Sandwich, Kent, South-East England

 

Outside their bio-geographical ranges, banded palm (Hemigalus derbyanus) and Owston's banded palm (Chrotogale owstoni) civets can confound less experienced wildlife-loving amateurs, collectors, and experts. But Owston's banded palm civets of China, Laos, and Vietnam claim:

  • Nape-hairs growing rump-ward in the same, not the opposite, direction as the entire coat;
  • Spots proliferating over the flanks, limbs, and neck.

Such confusion does not exist regarding other completely or partly sympatric (“same-ranging”) civet species:

  • Asian palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus);
  • Gem-faced masked palm civets (Paguma larvata);
  • Hose’s palm civets (Diplogale hosei);
  • Large Indian (Viverra zibetha), large-spotted (Viverra megaspila), and Malayan civets (Viverra tangalunga);
  • Otter civets (Cynogale bennettii);
  • Small-toothed three-striped palm civets (Arctogalidia trivirgata).

 

Hose's Palm Civet (Diplogale hosei), under synonym of Hemigale hosei: Hose's Palm Civets share homelands with Banded Palm Civets in Kayan Mentarang National Park, North Kalimantan Province, Borneo Island, Indonesia.

illustration by Joseph Smit (July 18, 1836 – November 4, 1929)
Oldfield Thomas, "On Some Mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo" (1892) plate XVIII, opp. p. 220
Oldfield Thomas, "On Some Mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo" (1892) plate XVIII, opp. p. 220

 

Elusive biologies and remote bio-geographies account for unfamiliarity with banded palm civets. Captivity and domestication change a wild animal's natural routines. For example, exotic pet owners and national zoo operators estimate banded palm civet life expectancies at 20, not 10, years. But collectors and scientists know that banded palm civets grow from litter-born offspring weighing 4.41 ounces (125 grams) into:

  • Juvenile kittens seeing within 8 – 12 days and taking solid foods within 70;

  • Physically and sexually mature adults measuring 16.14 – 24.41 inches (410 – 620 millimeters) from head to rump and 10.04 – 15.08 inches (255 – 383 millimeters) from tail-base to tip and weighing 3.86 – 6.61 pounds (1.75 – 3 kilograms).

 

 

It boggles the mind that the existence of banded palm civets does not represent a recent scientific discovery. The banded palm civet's formal presentation to scientists outside Asia dates back to 1837. It originates with Walsall-born Englishman John Edward Gray (February 12, 1800 – March 7, 1875), as:

  • British Museum zoologist, 1840 – 1875;

  • Publisher of 500 scientific papers.

But follow-up studies suffer from:

  • The priorities of area governments concerned about political stability, dependent upon world markets, and ensconced in agro-industrial developments;

  • The reticence of locals intent upon banded palm civet bodies for bushmeat, coats for clothing, and musk for medicine;

  • The zeal of hunters and poachers in snare-trapping the ground-dwelling, tree-foraging mammal for collectors and traders.

 

Banded Palm Civet under synonym of Hemigalea Zebra

Engraved by William Lizars (1788 - March 30, 1859) after Charles Hamilton Smith (December 26, 1776 –September 21, 1859)
Sir William Jardine, Introduction to Mammalia (1858), plate 9, opp. p. 174
Sir William Jardine, Introduction to Mammalia (1858), plate 9, opp. p. 174

Conclusion: Camaraderie with Southeast Asian wildlife in confronting emblematic challenges of 21st century

 

Banded palm civets evince subtleties of color and size as bio-geographically distinct subspecies:

  • Hemigalus derbyanus derbyanus of peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, and Thailand and of Sumatra;

  • H.d. boiei of Borneo;

  • H.d. minor of Nīas and South Pagai;

  • H.d. sipora of Sipura.  

All four subspecies similarly experience:

  • Climate change and global warming;

  • Modernizing and tradition-bound interactions;

  • Urban and wildland interfaces.

The resulting environmental stress is not endured uniquely by the banded palm civet’s subspecies. Banded palm civets indeed join all of Southeast Asia’s wildlife at the forefront and sidelines of:

  • Commercial logging;

  • Eco-tourist developments;

  • Plantation agriculture;

  • Residential expansion.

Government protection, scientific research, and wildlife-lover activism lessen the trauma.

 

Deforestation in East Kalimantan Province, eastern Borneo Island, Indonesia

Logging road and impacts in East Kalimantan: logged forest on the left, virgin/primary forest on the right.
Logging road and impacts in East Kalimantan: logged forest on the left, virgin/primary forest on the right.

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Banded civet  (Hemigalus derbyanus)
Banded civet (Hemigalus derbyanus)

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Banded Palm Civet: collected during voyage of Odoardo Beccari (November 16, 1843 – October 25, 1920) and Marquis Giacomo Doria (November 1, 1840 - September 19, 1913) to Sarawak, Borneo.

Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova
Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

The Living Wild by Art Wolfe ~

Art Wolfe has been photographing nature and wildlife to wide acclaim for 25 years.
Banded Palm Civets in books

Mt Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia: photo by Robert Francis

One of Banded Palm Civet majestic homelands
Mt Kinabalu, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

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: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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