Bourlon's Genets (Genetta bourloni): Ringtails of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

by DerdriuMarriner

One-half to two-thirds of all animals are unknown to science. Some species excel at getaways. But thanks to Philippe Gaubert, we now know about Bourlon’s northwest African genets.

Some animals challenge becoming known to experts and non-specialists alike.
• One such example can be found among African genets in general and Bourlon’s genets in particular.
• Knowing the nocturnal tree-dweller’s looks but ignoring habitats does not necessarily lead to ranking genets high among the world’s faunal escape artists.

Excepting aquatic forms (Genetta piscivora), genets get spotted bodies and striped tails.
• For artists and fashionistas, spots with stripes guarantee standing out in canvas and textile line-ups.
• But for a diminutive carnivore whose remote rainforest homeland showcases dappled lighting and vegetation, they have super-smart survival implications.

Acute senses, ambient coloring, rapid moves, and remote niches indeed help explain ignorance of the existence of Bourlon’s genets until the twenty-first century.

Genetta piscivora, under synonym of Osbornictis piscivora: Unlike Bourlon's Genets and other genets, Aquatic Genet lacks spotted body and striped tail ~

illustration by Richard Deckert (December 5, 1878 - January 18, 1971) from skin collected in Niapu, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 1, 1913
J.A. Allen, "Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition" (1922 - 1925), Plate XVIII
J.A. Allen, "Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition" (1922 - 1925), Plate XVIII

 

Sightings of Bourlon’s genets are rare. They cluster around one of two venues:

  • Markets;

  • Museums.

So non-specialists and scientists generally do not count upon observing Bourlon’s genets as living inhabitants of parks, reserves, wildlands or zoos. They instead expect to find them as fresh bush-meat and processed furs in local bazaars or as lifeless specimens in natural history collections. Twenty-nine preserved samples from the two above-mentioned sources indeed fill museum holdings worldwide. They originate in:

  • Gatherings from the wild for mis-categorization or non-classification;

  • Recoveries from the butcher’s block.

One of the older specimens in fact traces back to Oda, Ghana in 1946. More recent specimens regularly turn up in southeast Guinea's bush-meat markets. 

 

 

Technology can take up the slack from unshared village anecdotes of local hunters and unsuccessful in-person observations of Bourlon's genets in the field and in the wild. Camera-traps and radio-telemetry contribute to understanding enigmatic fauna if their placement and range are judicious. Specialists find just case for optimism in this regard since they can guesstimate the bio-geography of Bourlon's genets, thanks to in-print and on-line information-sharing from 2003 onward by the ring-tailed mammal's official discoverer, Philippe Gaubert. So they know to direct technology to niches within the upper rainforests of:

  • Ghana;

  • Guiana;

  • Ivory Coast;

  • Sierra Leone.

But appropriate location and proper scope still may not guarantee success since Bourlon's genets are super-intelligent eluders of:

  • Competitors;

  • People;

  • Predators.   

 

skin of King Genet (Genetta poensis): King Genets overlap with Bourlon's Genets in Liberia.

R.I. Pocock, Report Upon a Small Collection of Mammalia (1907), Plate LIV, Figure 4
R.I. Pocock, Report Upon a Small Collection of Mammalia (1907), Plate LIV, Figure 4

 

Tracking devices have to be penetrate the African rainforest's prevailing low-light conditions. They also must differentiate between Bourlon's genets and such sympatric genets of overlapping distributions and similar habitats as Johnston's, king and large-spotted genets (Genetta johnstoni, G. poensis, and G. maculata). They need to get beyond what all non-aquatic genets showcase:

  • Alert ears;

  • Big, dark-adapted, rounded eyes;

  • Elongated neck;

  • 5 digits per paw, each armed with a curved, retractable, sharp, short claw and responsible for fast, graceful digitigrade (“on the digits,” tiptoes) locomotion;

  • Fox-like, pointed muzzle;

  • Muscular, short limbs;

  • Musky-smelling, self-defensive, territory-marking scent glands;

  • Raccoon-like ring-patterned tail;

  • Sharp teeth realizing cat-like, lethal, nape-of-the-neck, painless, quick bites to prey;

  • Sinewy, spotted body;

  • Squirrel-like reversible ankles;

  • Super-sensory whiskers.   

 

Along with other non-aquatic genets, Bourlon's Genets enjoy reputation as stink cats (German: Stinkkatze) and as masters of alert, elusive elegance:

"Deutsch-Süd-Westafrika, Stinkkatze" photo by Walther Dobbertin (1882 - January 12, 1961)
German Federal Archives, Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate state (Rheinland-Pfalz), west central Germany
German Federal Archives, Koblenz, Rhineland-Palatinate state (Rheinland-Pfalz), west central Germany

 

Bourlon's genets fit in with the dark-spotted, dark-and-light-striped, and light-bodied looks of all non-aquatic genets. They individualize:

  • Broad forehead; 

  • Brown markings;

  • Dark, shoulder-to-tail-base spinal stripe;

  • Cream-grey ground coloration;

  • Dark cheeks, chin-line, eyebrows, and nose;

  • Dark lower limbs and paws, with soles furry between paw pads;

  • Darkened tail, from mid-point to tip;

  • Light-ringed chin, ear, eyes, mouth, nose, and throat;

  • Rough, short fur measuring 0.79 – 1.18 inches (20 – 30 millimeters) on the tail.

The spots in the uppermost corporeal rows each merge into 2 mid-back-to-tail-base stripes. The tail sports:

  • Alternating series of 5 – 7 thin off-white and wide brown rings;

  • Long, thin, stripe running the upper tail's length.

 

Philippe Gaubert, discoverer of Bourlon's Genet, noted recorded appearances of Genetta bourloni and Genetta pardina in same localities in Sérédou, southeastern Guinea, which is the geographic area of holotype (type specimen) for Bourlon's Genet:

Genetta pardina fieldiana (No. 51541): A ~ palmar surface of left fore foot; B ~ plantar surface of left hind foot. Natural size.
J.A. Allen, "Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition" (1922 - 1925), Figure 16, page 122
J.A. Allen, "Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition" (1922 - 1925), Figure 16, page 122

 

Experts find Bourlon's genet-related anecdotes and data historically sparse. They hypothesize genet-consistent:

  • Avoiding competitive mammals (including co-viverrids), raptors, and reptiles;

  • Delivering annually 1 – 4 grey-furred offspring born briefly blind and deaf;

  • Demarcating same-gender – and overlapping opposite-gender – home ranges;

  • Foraging nightly from day-occupied burrows and hollows.

They know that Bourlon's genets realize physical and sexual maturity, with:

  • Dentition of 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 8 molars evenly distributed between lower and upper jaws;

  • Head-and-body lengths of 19.29 – 19.69 inches (490 – 500 millimeters);

  • Tail lengths of 15.75 – 16.54 inches (400 – 420 millimeters);

  • Weights of 3.31 – 4.41 pounds (1.5 – 2 kilograms).   

 

A skin of a Bourlon's Genet, collected from Mount Nimba in June 2001, is in Paris' Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle.

landscape of Mount Nimba: views of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Liberia.
landscape of Mount Nimba: views of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, and Liberia.

 

The position of Bourlon's genets within their rainforest habitats tentatively can be considered sustainable, currently and future-wise. Survival temporarily goes unchallenged precisely because of the ring-tailed viverrid's recognized bio-geography by Philippe Gaubert, as:

  • Dissertation author of Systématique et phylogénie du genre Genetta et des énigmatiques "genetlike taxa" Prionodon, Poiana et Osbornictis (Carnivora, Viverridae): caractérisation de la sous-famille des Viverrinae et étude des patrons de diversification au sein du continent africain;

  • Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle scientist;

  • Viverrid specialist, particularly of genets and linsangs.

Philippe indeed places Bourlon's genets with co-rainforest-specific king (Genetta poensis) and Schouteden's (G. schoutedeni) genets. The remote niches inhabited by these genets currently resist large-scale:

  • Construction;

  • Farming;

  • Logging;

  • Mining;

  • Ranching.   

 

Le Grand Rocher ("Great Rock"), emblematic symbol of Paris' Zoo de Vincennes: 214 foot (65 meter)-high artificial mountain of reinforced concrete built 1932 -1934 by architect Charles Letrosne (April 7, 1868 - August 8, 1939) ~

Both common name and species name of Bourlon's Genet (Genetta bourloni) honor memory of Philippe Bourlon, keeper at Zoo de Vincennes who died from injuries inflicted on September 24, 2001 by a lion while he was feeding lions in their enclosure.
Parc zoologique de Vincennes
Parc zoologique de Vincennes

Conclusion: A future for a newly identified genet species with an almost invisible past?

 

Philippe Gaubert is responsible for the common and taxonomic names of Bourlon's genets (Genetta bourloni). Both names memorialize Philippe Bourlon's outstanding tenure at the Paris-Vincennes zoo, 1978 – 2001. They persuade Philippe's contemporaries to uncover other popular designations -- to join the extra-regional, Swahili word kano for all genets -- since Bourlon's genets inspire interest in four coastal west African countries.

The discovery hopefully will be accompanied by the proliferation of governmental protection and scientific research preceding environmentally-friendly policies and practices regarding the life cycles and natural histories of Bourlon's genets in particular and world-stressed fauna and flora in particular. Effectively resolving sustainability threats from agro-industrialism, environmental pollution, globally-warmed climate change, and over-hunting will require nothing less.  

 

landscape of Man: market town where skins of Bourlon's Genets are sold

La Dent de Man: Volcanic plug in native forest and plant habitat, western Côte d'Ivoire
La Dent de Man: Volcanic plug in native forest and plant habitat, western Côte d'Ivoire

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.

 

landscape of Bourlon's Genets:

Nzérékoré, also spelled N'Zérékoré, largest city in Guinée Forestière region of south-eastern Guinea
Nzérékoré, capital city of Nzérékoré Prefecture
Nzérékoré, capital city of Nzérékoré Prefecture

Sources Consulted

 

Allen, J.A. (Joel Asaph). 1922 - 1925. “Carnivora Collected by the American Museum Congo Expedition.” Bulletin American Museum of Natural History, Vol. XLVII (1922 - 1925): 73 – 281.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/stream/bulletinamerican47ameruoft#page/73/mode/1up

Beddard, Frank E. 12 November 1907. "On Some Points in the Structure of Galidictis striata (Received October 17, 1907)." Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1907(4):803-817.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsofzoo19074471121zool#page/802/mode/2up

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. "Genetta bourloni." Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2011 Annual Checklist. Reading, UK. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.catalogueoflife.org/annual-checklist/2011/search/all/key/genetta+bourloni/match/1

Boelens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; and Grayson, Michael. 2009. The Eponym Dictionary of Mammals. JHU Press. Baltimore MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Boudet, Ch. 10 January 2009. "Species Sheet: Bourlon's Genet." Mammals' Planet: Vs n°4, 04/2010. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

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

"Bourlon's Genet." The Animal Files: Mammals>Carnivores. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.theanimalfiles.com/mammals/carnivores/genet_bourlons.html

Corson, Docteur P.-J. October 2005. Les grands prédateurs d’Afrique: biologie, éthnologie et chasse. Brussels, Belgium: Éditions du Gerfaut.

Crawford-Cabral, J. 1981. “A New Classification of the Genets.” African Small Mammal Newsletter6:8-10.  

Crawford-Cabral, João. 1980. "The Classification of the Genets (Carnivora, Viverridae, genus Genetta)." Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Ciências Naturais 20:97-114.

Driver, Stephanie (ed.). 2008. Exploring Mammals. 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. 2003. “Description of a New Species of Genet (Carnivora; Viverridae; genus Genetta) and Taxonomic Revision of Forest Forms Related to the Large-spotted Genet Complex.” Mammalia 67:85-108.

Gaubert, Philippe; and Dufour, Sylvain. July 2013. “First Report of a Chinchilla Phenotype in Viverridae (Carnivora).” Small Carnivore Conservation 48:92-95. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.smallcarnivoreconservation.org/home/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/SCC-48-11-Gaubert-Dufour.pdf

Gaubert, P.; and Dunham, A. 2008. “Genetta bourloni.” In: IUCN 2013. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/full/136223/0

Gaubert, P.; Chalubert, A.; and Dubus, G. 2008. “An Interactive Identification Key for Genets and Oyans (Carnivora, Viverridae, Genettinae, Genetta spp. and Poiana spp.) Using Xper2.” Zootaxa 1717:39-50.

Gaubert, P.; Fernandes, C. A.; Bruford, M. W.; and Veron, G. 2004. "Genets (Carnivora, Viverridae) in Africa: An Evolutionary Synthesis Based on Cytochrome b Sequences and Morphological Characters." Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 81:589-610.

Gaubert, P.; Papeş, M.; Peterson, A.T. June 2006. "Natural History Collections and the Conservation of Poorly Known Taxa: Ecological Niche Modeling in Central African Rainforest Genets (Genetta spp.)." Biological Conservation 130(1):106–117.

Gaubert, P.; Taylor, P.J.; and Veron, G. 2005. “Integrative Taxonomy and Phylogenetic Systematics of the Genets (Carnivora, Viverridae, Genetta): A New Classification of the Most Speciose Carnivoran Genus in Africa.” Pp. 371-384 in African Biodiversity: Molecules, Organisms, Ecosystems edited by Bernard A. Huber, Braldey J. Sinclair, and Karl-Heinz Lampe. NY: Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.

  • Available at: http://www.durban.gov.za/Documents/DiscoverDurban/Museums%20and%20Durban%20Art%20Gallery/8_Gaubert_et_al_2005.pdf

Gaubert, P.; Veron, G.; and Tranier, M. March 2002. “Genets and ‘Genet-like’ Taxa (Carnivora, Viverrinae): Phylogenetic Analysis, Systematics and Biogeographic Implications.” Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 134(3):317-334.

Gaubert, Philippe; Weltz, Marjorie; and Chalubert, Antoine. 14 January 2008. “Genetta bourloni.” Genets and Oyans. Paris: Université Pierre et Marie Curie. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://lis-upmc.snv.jussieu.fr/genettes/web/fiches_en/taxa/genetta_bourloni.html

"Genet." AWF: What We Do>Wildlife Conservation>Genet. African Wildlife Foundation. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.awf.org/wildlife-conservation/genet

"Genetta bourloni." The National Center for Biotechnology Information: Taxonomy ID94190. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Taxonomy/Browser/wwwtax.cgi?lin=s&p=has_linkout&id=235208

"Genetta bourloni: Bourlon's Genet." Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://eol.org/pages/1053883/details

"Genetta bourloni (Bourlon's Genet)." ZipcodeZoo: Species Identifier 4272224. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://zipcodezoo.com/animals/g/genetta_bourloni/

"Genetta bourloni Gaubert, 2003." ITIS Standard Report: Taxonomic Serial Number 726258. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at:
    • http://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=726258

"Genetta bourloni Gaubert, 2003." The Marine Biological Laboratory Universal Biological Indexer and Organizer NamebankID 11271811. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.ubio.org/browser/details.php?namebankID=11271811

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.

Glenn, C.R. 2006. “Bourlon’s Genet.” Earth’s Endangered Creatures (Online): Species Profiles > Africa > Endangered Mammals of Africa. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.earthsendangered.com/profile.asp?gr=M&sp=10214

Goswami, Anjali; and Friscia, Anthony. (eds.). 2010. Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form and Function. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge Studies in Morphology and Molecules.

Gray, John Edward. 1869. Catalogue of Carnivorous, Pachydermatous, and Edentate Mammalia in the British Museum. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/details/catalogueofcarni00brit

Huber, B.A.; Sinclair, B.J.; and Lampe, K.-H. (eds.). 2005. African Biodiversity: Molecules, Organisms, Ecosystems. NY: Springer.

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.

Jukofsky, Diane for the Rainforest Alliance. 2002. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Westport, CT: Oryx Press.

Kingdon, Jonathon; Happold, David; Butynski, Thomas; Hoffmann, Michael; Happold, Meredith; and Jan Kalina (eds.). 2013. Mammals of Africa, Volume 5: Carnivores, Pangolins, Equids and Rhinoceroses, edited by Jonathan Kingdon and Michael Hoffmann. Bloomsbury Publishing.

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

Larivière, Serge. 2004. "Civets, Genets, and Lingsangs." Pp. 335-339 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.

Myers, P.; Espinosa, R.; Parr, C.S.; Jones, T.; Hammond, G.S.; and Dewey, T.A. 2014. “Genetta bouloni: Bourlon’s Genet.” The Animal Diversity Web (on-line). University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

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

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

Pocock, R.I. 26 November 1907. "Report upon a Small Collection of Mammalia Brought from Liberia by Mr. Leonard Leighton." Proceedings of the General Meetings for Scientific Business of the Zoological Society of London 1043-1047. Retrieved on April 18, 2014.

  • Available via Internet Archive at: https://archive.org/stream/proceedingsofzoo19074471121zool#page/1037/mode/1up

Poitrineau, Karine. 31 October 2003. “Découverte d’une nouvelle espèce de mammifère: la genette d’Afrique de l’Ouest.” Futura-Sciences. : Santé > Actualités > Génétique. Retrieved May 9, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.futura-sciences.com/magazines/sante/infos/actu/d/vie-decouverte-nouvelle-espece-mammifere-genette-afrique-ouest-2677/

Rosevear, Donovan Reginald. 1974. The Carnivores of West Africa. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History).

  • Available via Biodiversity Heritage Library at: http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/35416#page/7/mode/1up

Schlawe, L. 1980. “Zur geographischen Verbreitung der Ginsterkatzen Gattung Genetta G. cuvier, 1816. Faunistische Abhandlungen Staatliches Museum für Tierkunde in Dresden 7:147-161.

Veron, Geraldine. 6 September 2010. "Phylogeny of the Viverridae and 'Viverrid-like' feliforms." Pp. 64-91 in Carnivoran Evolution: New Views on Phylogeny, Form and Function, edited by Anjali Goswami and Anthony Friscia. Cambridge University Press.

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. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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

Genetta bourloni's landscape: Mount Bintumani, highest peak (6,381 feet; 1,945 meters) in Loma Mountains, northeastern Sierra Leone ~

Loma Mountains are protected area in Sierra Leone, designated as a non-hunting forest reserve since 1952.
Mount Bintumani
Mount Bintumani
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Genet: photo by Andy and Clare Teare

10x14 Photo Puzzle with 252 pieces. Packed in black cardboard box 5 5/8 x 7 5/8 x 1 1/5. Puzzle image 5x7 affixed to box top.
Photo Jigsaw Puzzle - Ardea Wildlife Pets

Animal Picture with Genet, c.1560: illustration by Ludger Tom Ring the Younger (1522–1584)

Animal Picture with Genet, c.1560

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: 08/12/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?
2

Comments


   Login

You might also like

Common European Small-Spotted Genets (Genetta genetta): Linnae...

Spots and stripes act as camouflage. They also advise of scented communicatio...

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!