Crested Genets (Genetta cristata): Ringtails of Nigeria and Maybe Still of Cameroon, Congo and Gabon

by DerdriuMarriner

Africa’s 13 – 16 non-aquatic genet species look alike. But each one refines ringed tails, short limbs, spotted bodies and trim muzzles. Thus crested genets showcase crested necks.

Genets are arboreal animals that establish permanent dens in tree-shrouded burrows or tree hollows and regular latrines on the ground.
• They are carnivorous mammals that merge meat-eating with the opportunistic feeding patterns of omnivores.
• They are nocturnalist viverrids that pursue strict nightshift foraging and foraying to elude predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles during the day.
• Excepting the African-Eurasian common small-spotted genet, they carry out their life cycles and natural histories in the sub-Saharan Africa’s forests, grasslands, and woodlands.
• Their lifestyle of extended communities of couples and singles historically is conducive to population sustainability.

But twenty-first century environmental issues, land-use patterns, and local traditions may change everything for genets.
• They already threaten reclusive, remote rainforest-dwelling crested genets.

Genetta servalina: Originally Genetta cristata was thought to be a subspecies of servaline genet.

Servaline Genet, Cameroon
Servaline Genet, Cameroon


A salient bio-geography or physique generally accounts for the origins of the common name -- the popular designation by non-specialists -- for an animal or plant. For example, a distinct structural characteristic determines the crested genet’s common, trivial or vernacular name. The adjective crested focuses upon the hairy crest on the back of the genet in question’s neck.

English and French function as major world languages whose use historically is extended to the crested genet’s bio-geographical range within the Elbow of Africa. The emphasis upon the crest indeed gets preserved in the French common name, genette à crête. It also is relayed in the binomial (“two-name”) classification -- the Latin, scientific or taxonomic name -- Genetta cristata.



Locals are not forthcoming about the animal that they call nanwuri. That crested genets realize silky pelts, represent tasty bush-meat, and respond to domestication explains local reticence. That over-hunting by fire-, spear-, and trap-wielding locals occurs even on such protected areas as Nigeria’s Cross River National Park furnishes another explanation for hesitant, reluctant information-sharing by the native peoples of:

  • Cameroon;
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo;
  • Gabon;
  • Nigeria.

The hunt for and trade in crested genet flesh and fur in fact go unabated precisely because of their occurrence along and within the Elbow of Africa’s wildland-urban interfaces at previously impenetrably dense forests being thinned by:

  • The Cross River’s agricultural conversions and post-logging wastelands;
  • The Niger Delta’s oil production.


Crested Servaline Genets' landscape: Cross River State Forest, southeastern Nigeria

Kwa Falls, along the Kwa River in Cross River State
Kwa Falls, along the Kwa River in Cross River State


The niches which attract crested genets articulate monthly configurations of:

  • Evapotranspiration around 47.17 inches (1,198.07 millimeters);
  • Precipitation around 7.07 inches (179.62 millimeters);
  • Temperatures around 75.56°F (24.2°C).

They cluster at altitudes up to 3,280.84+ feet (1,000+ meters) above sea level. They do not extend to the mangrove and riverside forests favored by sympatric (“same-ranging”) rusty-spotted panther genets (Genetta maculata). They probably preclude the existence of disjunct (“discontinuous”) populations on coastal West Africa’s barrier islands. They prioritize the deciduous, dry, high primary forests’ bare soils, scrublands, and tangled surface vegetation over:

  • Primary flooded, marsh, and tidal freshwater forests;
  • Secondary-growth dry forests.

They always suffer near oil palm and pineapple plantations even though they tolerate bush-mango plantations within forest patches.


Rusty-Spotted Panther Genets (Genetta maculata) overlap with Genetta cristata in Cameroon and Nigeria:

Nevertheless, Panther Genets favor mangrove and riverside forests, which are disfavored by Crested Genets.
Genetta maculata: Shimba Hills National Reserve, southeastern Kenya
Genetta maculata: Shimba Hills National Reserve, southeastern Kenya


Dappled forests accommodate the crested genet’s reclusive behavior and spotted-and-striped physique. Crested genets adhere to paired and solitary lifestyles of:

  • Arboreal acrobatics with plush tails as balance and ballast;
  • Fleet getaways with low-lying limbs and squirrel-like ankles for rapid ascents, descents, jumps, and leaps;
  • Obscure dens on large branches or within rock crevices or tree burrows and hollows;
  • Quick traversals of any opening at least the width of a genet’s head.

They apply super-acute hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch to:

  • Controlling bird, insect, reptile, and small mammal populations and vegetation growth;
  • Effecting soundless pounces for painless nape-of-the-neck bites;
  • Vocalizing growls, grunts, mews, peeps, and purrs.

They control scent gland-produced, self-defensive, territory-marking muskiness with cat-like daily grooming.


Crested Genets' reptilian synecology ~ Cameroon sailfin chameleon (Trioceros montium):

chameleon endemic to Cameroonian highlands around Mount Cameroon
Cameroon sailfin chameleon (Trioceros montium)
Cameroon sailfin chameleon (Trioceros montium)


Conflict-avoiding, self-defensive behaviors call upon:

  • Super-camouflageability;
  • Super-senses;
  • Super-wariness.

Corporeal colors and elongated physiques indeed camouflage crested genets. They imitate dappled sylvan textures, what with:

  • Brown-black spots dotting grey to yellow-brown upper sides and forming broken horizontal lines over limbs, neck, and rump;
  • Dark cheeks, eyebrows, paws, and whiskers;
  • Dark hairy central depressions on each forepaw’s sole;
  • Dark line subtly crossing the upper tail lengthwise;
  • Dark spinal line crossed lengthwise by lighter striping and running discontinuously from shoulders to tail base;
  • Darkened, thin chin line;
  • Grey to yellow-brown limbs with darkened outer back-sides;
  • Grey undersides;
  • Light inner ears, lower eye-rings, mouth, nose, and tail tip;
  • 16 – 20 tail rings, with lighter bands 50 – 75% wider than darker stripes.  


Genetta cristata

derivative work: Donovan Reginald Rosevear (1900-1986), Plate 3 Genetta
derivative work: Donovan Reginald Rosevear (1900-1986), Plate 3 Genetta


Scientists estimate for crested genets:

  • 7-year generations;
  • 34-year lifespans in the wild.

And yet sylvan lifestyles raise such challenges as:

  • Bi-annual litters of 1 – 4 offspring each -- with birth weights averaging 2 – 3 ounces (56.69 – 85.05 grams) -- after gestations of 56 – 77 days;
  • Blindness and deafness for 10 days;
  • Digestion of milk for 6 – 8 weeks;
  • Hunting at 3 months;
  • Independence at 6 months;
  • Mating at 2 years.

Physical and sexual maturity requires:

  • Ear lengths of 3.39 – 3.74 inches (86 – 95 millimeters);
  • Head-and-body lengths of 19.49 – 24.49 inches (495 – 622 millimeters);
  • Tail-hair lengths of 0.79 – 1.18 inches (20 – 30 millimeters);
  • Tail lengths of 16.97+ inches (431+ millimeters);
  • Weights of 2.21 – 4.41 pounds (1 – 2 kilograms).


Crested Genets' floral synecology: Oil palms (Elaeis guineensis)

Habitat makeovers through importation and development of oil palm plantations are disruptive to Crested Genets' traditional ecosystems.
Oil palm plantation on the slopes of Mt. Cameroon
Oil palm plantation on the slopes of Mt. Cameroon

Conclusion: Will recognition as a distinct species and defense mechanisms, such as arched backs, raised hairs, and yellow-colored stink-bombs, spell success over environmental challenges for over-hunted Crested Genets?


Taxonomic recognition dates to British Museum of Natural History scientist Robert William Hayman’s description in 1940 of a specimen from Okoiyong, Mamfe division, Cameroon. Before and since, crested genets typically fight unavoidable stresses with:

  • Arched backs;
  • Handstand-released, yellow-colored stink-bombs;
  • Hissed spitting;
  • Raised crest, spinal, and tail hairs;
  • 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 4 molars per lower and upper jaws;
  • Stand-up boxing;
  • 20 curved, retractable, sharp claws.

According to Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle scientist Philippe Gaubert, crested genet bio-geography may extend 111.85 miles (180 kilometers) westward and 310.69 miles (500 kilometers) southward than historically guesstimated. Without governmental protection and scientific research, vaster bio-geographies may not bolster crested genet self-defenses against:

  • Globally-warmed climate change;
  • Habitat make-overs;
  • Over-hunting.


Crested Genets' landscape: oil-rich, densely populated Niger Delta, also known as Oil Rivers ~

Niger River runs its course, from its source in Guinea Highlands of southeastern Guinea, to its massive discharge into Gulf of Guinea in Atlantic Ocean.
NASA Space Shuttle Overflight photo of the Niger Delta.
NASA Space Shuttle Overflight photo of the Niger Delta.



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.


Crested Genets' landscape: Mount Cameroon, known natively as Mongo ma Ndemi ("Mountain of Greatness")

Active volcano near Gulf of Guinea attains an elevation of 13,255 feet (4,040 meters) and transitions from tropical rainforests on its steep slopes to bare, cold, windy summit, sometimes brushed with snow.
Little Mount Cameroon, a peak on Mt. Cameroon's southern flank, also known as Etinde: view from the road of Limbe,
Little Mount Cameroon, a peak on Mt. Cameroon's southern flank, also known as Etinde: view from the road of Limbe,

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Crested Genets' landscape: Korup National Park, South West Region (French: Région du Sud-Ouest), southern Cameroon ~

Mana River Bridge, serving as only official entry into Park, was built in 2002, with donations from American Embassy in Cameroon, to replace first bridge which had deteriorated.
Mana suspension bridge over Mana river - Official entry into Korup National Park
Mana suspension bridge over Mana river - Official entry into Korup National Park
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Crested Genets' Nigerian piscine synecology ~ Peters' elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii): photo by Jean Michel Labat

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

A Vine Bridge Resembling a Spiders Web Near Mamfe, Mamfe, Sud-Ouest, Cameroon: photo by David Wall ~

Crested Genet specimen upon which Robert William Hayman based his 1940 description was collected in Mamfe ("Where should I put it?" in Bayangi).
A Vine Bridge Resembling a Spiders Web Near Mamfe, Mamfe, Sud-Ouest, Cameroon

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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