Hose's Palm Civets (Diplogale hosei): Non-Ringtails of Borneo

by DerdriuMarriner

In line with all civets, Hose’s palm civets have musky, stinky scent glands. Like some civets, they prefer palm trees. Unlike any civet, their name recalls zoologist Charles Hose.

Governments divide all Borneo into three parts.
• The government of the Islamic Sultanate of Brunei exists in the coastal north.
• The Indonesian government gets the biggest chunk, which is known as Kalimantan.
• The Malaysian government has Brunei surrounded by two large divisions, Sabah and Salawak Provinces.

The climate is the same throughout all three parts of Borneo.
• Ample insular water bodies and strong sea breezes keep all of Borneo’s temperatures within the range of 72 – 93°F (22.22 - 33.89°C).
• The humid atmosphere and the water cycle leave their mark on the entire island, with yearly rainfall averages of 160 inches (4,060 millimeters).

All of the above factors must appeal to Hose’s palm civets, mammals endemic to Borneo.

extraordinary British zoologist Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas: lent his genius to Hose's Palm Civets ~

portrait bequeathed by Oldfield Thomas to London's Natural History Museum
oil on canvas by John Ernest Breun (1862-1921)
oil on canvas by John Ernest Breun (1862-1921)

 

The official presentation of Hose’s palm civets to amateurs and professionals outside Southeast Asia dates to 1892. It draws upon the collection of Charles Hose (October 12, 1863 – November 14, 1923), as:

  • Nature-lover in Hertfordshire;
  • Pupil at Felsted, Sussex and Clare and Jesus Colleges, Cambridge;
  • Supervisor within the British colonial administrative apparatus at Sarawak, 1884;
  • Zoologist with ethnological and specimen collections, 1892-.

It expresses the extraordinary diligence and intelligence of Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas (February 21, 1858 – June 16, 1929), as:

  • Nature-lover in Bedfordshire;
  • Pupil at Haileyburg College, Hertfordshire and in Cape Colony, South Africa;
  • Taxonomist of 2,000+ specimens;
  • Writer of 1,000+ publications;
  • Zoologist at London’s British Museum.

 

The Scott-Keltie Falls, Mt. Dulit, Baram District, Sarawak: Charles Hose, namesake of Hose's Palm Civets, collected specimens described by Oldfield Thomas on Mount Dulit at 4,000 feet (1219 meters) and on Mount Batu Song at 2,000 feet (609.6 meters) ~

photo by Alfred Cort Haddon, Sc.D., FRS, FRGS (May 24, 1855 – April 20, 1940)
Alfred C. Haddon, Head-Hunters (1901), frontispiece
Alfred C. Haddon, Head-Hunters (1901), frontispiece

 

Museum specimens account for scientific acquaintance with Hose’s palm civets, the only civets endemic to Borneo. Other civets also claim Borneo within their bio-geographical distributions and ranges:

  • Asian brown golden palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus);

  • Banded palm civets (Hemigale derbyanus);

  • Gem-faced masked palm civets (Paguma larvata);

  • Oriental civets (Viverra tangalunga);

  • Otter civets (Cynogale bennettii);

  • Small-toothed three-striped palm civets (Arctogalidia trivirgata).

Excepting fleeting views of banded and Hose's palm civets by inexperienced viewers, identifying these semi-sympatric (partly same-ranging) civets does not prove difficult. Observers quickly learn that unlike banded palm civets, Hose's palm civets showcase:

  • No opening between the skull's paired incisive foramina;

  • No super-curved incisor rows;

  • Prominent accessory cusps on anterior premolars.

 

Hose's Palm Civet (Diplogale hosei) range ~ Hose's Palm Civets are the only civets endemic (Greek ἐν en "in, within" + δῆμος demos "people") to Borneo.

Distribution data from IUCN Red List
Distribution data from IUCN Red List

 

Camera-trapping and capture-and-release events allow motion and real-time studies regarding super-demure, super-elusive, super-fast Hose's palm civets. For example, camera-trapping photography catches banded palm civets in Kinabalu National Park, Sabah Province, Malaysian Borneo and possibly in Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. A capture in Brunei dates to 1997, with release back into the wild taking place 2 months later. Conditions between the kill and transfer and between the preservation and storage impact the quality of existing specimens. But cutting-edge technology justifies historical descriptions of banded palm civets as:

  • Black-brown in upper coloration from nose through outer limbs to tail tip;

  • Buff-grey around cheeks and eyes;

  • Grayish-, orange-brownish, or yellowish-white from chin through inner limbs to tail tip;

  • White-lipped and throated.   

 

side view of skull of male Hose's Palm Civet: drawn from specimen collected by Charles Hose ~

illustration by M.H. Fisher
Oldfield Thomas, "On Some Mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo" (1892), plate XIX figure 1, opp. p. 221
Oldfield Thomas, "On Some Mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo" (1892), plate XIX figure 1, opp. p. 221

 

Unspotted, unstriped pelage blends with lower montane and mixed dipterocarp (“two-winged fruit”) forests at altitudes of 1,312.34 - 2,395.01 feet (400 - 730 meters) throughout Bruneian and Malaysian Borneo. It camouflages Hose's palm civets, whose physical and sexual maturity realizes:

  • Ear lengths of 1.42 – 1.54 inches (36 – 39 millimeters);

  • Head-and-body lengths of 18.58 – 21.26 inches (472 – 540 millimeters);

  • Rear-paw lengths of 2.91 – 3.19 inches (74 -81 millimeters);

  • Tail lengths of 11.73 – 13.62 inches (298 – 346 millimeters);

  • Weights of 3.09 – 3.31 pounds (1.4 – 1.5 kilograms).

It facilitates:

  • Foraging evenings and nights;

  • Sleeping among tree roots and within abandoned burrows and rocky crevices.   

 

Hose's Palm Civet (Diplogale hosei), under synonym of Hemigale hosei:

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

 

Invertebrates generally and insects particularly dominate civet diets. But Hose's palm civets favor prey that are more in line with the eating habits of aquatic and semi-aquatic mammals. In fact, just like Southeast Asia's otter civets, Hose's palm civets feed upon:

  • Crabs;

  • Frogs;

  • Shrimp;

  • Small fish.

Facial whiskers and hairy paws additionally lead mammalogists to hypothesize the regular inclusion of mossy boulder- and stream-dwelling small mammals in the diets of Hose's palm civets. Stream and streamside insects represent:

  • The role of riverine invertebrates as dietary supplements in the nutritional requirements of Hose's palm civets;

  • The significance of dense vegetation cover and of unpolluted streams for health in the life cycles and natural histories of Hose's palm civets.

 

palatal view of skull of male Hose's Palm Civet: drawn from specimen collected by Charles Hose ~

illustration by M.H. Fisher
Oldfield Thomas, "On Some Mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo" (1892), plate XIX figure 2, opp. p. 221
Oldfield Thomas, "On Some Mammals from Mount Dulit, North Borneo" (1892), plate XIX figure 2, opp. p. 221

 

Hose's palm civets communicate by:

  • Sight, smell, sound;
  • Taste, touch;
  • Vocalization.

Super-sight depends upon dark-adapted, large, rounded eyes. Two flared, protruding nostrils on a large, moist nose detect both the strongest and the subtlest of scents. Anal-area glands emit information-gathering, mate-attracting, and territory-marking musk. Processing sounds involves:

  • Alert, thin-haired, white-interiored ears;

  • Fine, long, super-sensory white facial whiskers.

Touch is facilitated by:

  • Brown foot-pads;

  • Flesh-colored, hairy soles;

  • Semi-webbed, tongue-moistened paws for grasping and grooming;

  • 20 cat-like, curved, retractile, sharp claws.

Taste makes use of:

  • Agile, flavor-sensitive, long tongue;

  • 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 8 molars distributed equally between the lower and upper jaws.

Vocalizations range from cooing to:

  • Growling;

  • Hissed spitting;

  • Whining.   

 

Hose's Palm Civets favor habitats dominated by Koompassia excelsa, one of the tallest rainforest trees, with heights reaching over 85 meters (281 feet):

Koompasia excelsa providing support for part of a canopy walkway, Sabah, northern Borneo, Malaysia
Sabah, northern Borneo, Malaysia
Sabah, northern Borneo, Malaysia

Conclusion: Hose's Palm Civets, a lesser-known species with a forgotten past and an uncharted future

 

Unfamiliarity to wildlife-loving amateurs and professionals aggravates the vulnerability of Hose's palm civets. For example, bio-geography concentrates Hose's palm civets in predictable niches dominated by the tropical hardwood genera Hopea, Koompassia, and Shorea. But global economics, insufficient funding, local reticence, politico-administrative changes, and remote terrain confound scientific investigations. Hose's palm civets therefore end up as the lesser-known species of previously marketable animals whose past is forgotten and whose future is uncharted. Westerners knew of civets as sources of musky perfume-stabilizers. Locals know of Hose's palm civets as sources of:

  • Ceremonial pelts;

  • Nutritious bushmeat;

  • Traditional medicines.

Government protection, scientific research, and wildlife-lover awareness problem-solve the environmental stresses on wildlife sustainability from:

  • Agro-industrialism;

  • Globally-warmed climate change;

  • Habitat fragmentation;

  • Snare-trapping.

 

Mount Kinabalu (Malay: Gunung Kinabalu), protected in Kinabalu Park (Malay: Taman Kinabalu), established in 1964 as one of Malaysia's first national parks; designated in 2000 as Malaysia's first UNESCO World Heritage Site:

Hose's Palm Civets have been recorded in Kinabalu Park.
view from Kundasang, closest town to Mount Kinabalu, northern Borneo, Malaysia
view from Kundasang, closest town to Mount Kinabalu, northern Borneo, Malaysia

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.

 

 

The heights of Ulu Temburong National Park, known as "The Green Jewel of Brunei," are home to Hose's Palm Civets; rare and reclusive, adaptable to a range of altitudes, Hose's Palm Civets are known by only 17 specimens in museums worldwide.

Temburong District, Brunei's easternmost district, is an enclave, i.e., separated from the rest of Brunei by Malaysian state of Sarawak.
canopy walk,  Ulu Temburong National Park, Batu Apoi Forest Reserve, northern Borneo, Brunei
canopy walk, Ulu Temburong National Park, Batu Apoi Forest Reserve, northern Borneo, Brunei

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View of Crocker Range (Malay: Banjaran Crocker), which separates the east and west coasts of Malaysian state of Sabah in northern Borneo:

Mount Kinabalu, highest peak in Crocker Range, provides favorable ecosystems for Hose's Palm Civets.
Tamparuli-Ranau-Road, Sabah, northern Borneo, Malaysia
Tamparuli-Ranau-Road, Sabah, northern Borneo, Malaysia
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Mammals of the World: A Checklist by Andrew Duff and Ann Lawson ~ page 115: Diplogale hosei (Hose's Palm Civet)

This is the first checklist of mammals of the world to include both English and scientific names of every species as well as a brief summary of distribution and habitat.
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Jungle travelers may never know that they are being quietly watched by jungle dwellers, such as Hose's Palm Civets.
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Harlequin Tree Frog (Rhacophorus pardalis), Borneo: photo by Geoff Trinder ~ Harlequin Tree Frogs do not want to be in proximity to hungry Hose's Palm Civets.

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Updated: 08/20/2014, DerdriuMarriner
 
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