Letabae Genets (Genetta letabae): Ringtails of Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland

by DerdriuMarriner

Historically, it cannot be easy for letabae genets. They get lost among the panther genet's subspecies. But Dr. Philippe Gaubert plans to promote letabaes to species status.

Twenty-first century science acts openly and receptively to change. Such a course of action falls in line with the true scientific method of collecting, querying, refining, re-gathering, re-investigating, and re-structuring data.

It focuses upon questioning assumptions and re-examining appearances. It impels Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (National Museum of Natural History) scientist Philippe Gaubert to expand the world's genus of 1 Afro – Eurasian-based and 13 native African species by promoting 3 genets from subspecies status.

It nevertheless involves detecting subtle differences that are challenging to witness on night-active, solitary, super-clever, super-fast, super-reclusive genets. For example, it is difficult to compare critical identifiers, such as shades of color, sizes of corporeal spots, and widths of tail stripes.

extraordinary British zoologist Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas

portrait bequeathed by Oldfield Thomas to London's Natural History Museum
Kristofer M. Helgen, Roberto Portela Miguez, James Kohen, Lauren Helgen/ZooKeys, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Kristofer M. Helgen, Roberto Portela Miguez, James Kohen, Lauren Helgen/ZooKeys, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


The formal presentation of letabae genets to scientists outside Africa dates back to 1906. It deals with the specimens collected by Charles Dunell Rudd (October 22, 1844 – November 15, 1916) of Hanworth Hall, Norfolk, England, as:

  • Athlete and student at Wadhurst, Harrow, and Trinity College Cambridge;

  • Diamond dealer, gold miner, ice cream/ice-making and pumping machinery/wire rope seller, and insurance agent in Cape Colony.

It draws upon the excellent experience and extraordinary expertise of Michael Rogers Oldfield Thomas (February 21, 1858 – June 16, 1929) of Millbrook, Bedfordshire, England, as:

  • Pupil at Haileybury College, Hertford;

  • Taxonomist of 2,000 new species and subspecies;

  • Writer of 1,000+ books, catalogues, and documents;

  • Zoologist at London's Natural History Museum. 


Charles Dunell Rudd

National Archives of Zimbabwe
National Archives of Zimbabwe


Wildlife-lovers apply two kinds of names to letabae genets. One category constitutes the common, informal, trivial, or vernacular derivation from popular use or the weight of tradition. The other classification functions as the binomial (“two-name”), Latin, scientific, or taxonomic identification which emerges from the consensus of specialists. The terminology is more or less one and the same in the case of letabae genets. For example, letabae may be considered the genet in question's common name. Genetta letabae -- with the former the genus and the latter the species -- represents the scientific name per species status, with Genetta maculata letabae the genus-species-subspecies elaboration. The modern Latinized term letabae serves to honor the location of the Rudd specimen.


Genetta letabae's type locality: Letaba River, (Afrikaans: Letabarivier), also known as Leţaba or Lehlaba, in southeastern Limpopo Province, northeastern South Africa

Flowing eastward from Groot Letaba River's and Klein Letaba River's confluence, Letaba River joins Olifants River (Afrikaans: Olifantsrivier; Portuguese: Rio dos Elefantes) in Lebombo Mountains' foothills, near South African-Mozambique borders.
view on the Letaba River
view on the Letaba River


South Africa's eastern Limpopo Province accommodates stretches of the Letaba River. The water body attracts Kruger National Park's twenty-first century visitors to such other riverside wildlife as:

  • Crocodiles;

  • Elephants, giraffes, impalas, waterbucks, and zebras;

  • Emu, owls, parrots, and pigeons.

Riverine environments and South Africa indeed count within the letabae genet's bio-geography. But letabae genets also emerge as wildlife native to:

  • Lesotho;

  • Mozambique;

  • Namibia;

  • Swaziland.

The letabae is Lesotho's and Swaziland's only endemic genet species. Letabae genets otherwise range semi-sympatrically (“same-ranging”) with 4 other species. African – Eurasian common small-spotted (Genetta genetta), Angolan miombo (G. angolensis), blotched large-spotted Cape (G. tigrina), letabae, and Schouteden's (G. schoutedeni) genets share country-specific distributions even though habitats and niches may not overlap.  


Blotched Large-Spotted Cape Genet (Genetta tigrina): a South African native, along with Genetta letabae

St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa
St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa


South Africa's Cape genets appreciate:

  • Coastal forests;

  • Grasslands;

  • Shrublands.

Montane rainforest-dwelling Schouteden's genets favor:

  • Angola;

  • Burundi;

  • Cameroon, Centrafrique, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa;

  • Ethiopia;

  • Ghana;

  • Kenya;

  • Mozambique;

  • Nigeria;

  • Rwanda;

  • Sudan;

  • Tanzania, Togo;

  • Uganda.

Brachystegia savannah-drawn Angola's genets inhabit:

  • Botswana;

  • Congo-Kinshasa;

  • Malawi, Mozambique;

  • Tanzania;

  • Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Letabae-, miombo-, Schouteden-favored forest/woodland-savannah mosaics interest common genets of:

  • Algeria;

  • Angola;

  • Benin, Botswana, Burkina;

  • Chad;

  • Djibouti;

  • Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia;

  • Ghana;

  • Ivory Coast;

  • Kenya;

  • Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique;

  • Namibia, Niger, Nigeria;

  • Oman;

  • Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan;

  • Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia;

  • Uganda;

  • Yemen;

  • Zambia, Zimbabwe.


Genetta letabae's ancient landscape: Located on Bomvu Ridge (also known as Nwenya Hills), northwest of Mbabane (Swazi: ÉMbábáne), Swaziland's capital and largest city, Ngwenya Mine is considered the world's oldest mine.

Radiocarbon dating places Middle Stone Age mining for haematite ore, for extraction of red ochre, as occurring 41,000 to 43,000 years ago.
Ngwenya Mine, Hhohho Region, northwestern Swaziland
Ngwenya Mine, Hhohho Region, northwestern Swaziland


All five semi-sympatric species individualize:

  • Alert ears;
  • Big eyes;
  • 40 teeth;
  • Short limbs;
  • Spotted body;
  • Striped tail;
  • Tapered muzzle;
  • 20 claws.

Cape genets manifest:

  • Darkened, not light, paws;
  • Line barely, not obviously, smudging the tail, base to tip.

Cape and miombo genets model darkened, not light, upper-limb inner-sides. Common genets reveal:

  • Bright, not darkened, tail-tip;
  • Brighter tail-rings 200%, not 50 – 75 %, wider than darker;
  • Small-, not large-spotted, body;
  • Upper-limb spots forming fragmented horizontal lines.

Letabae and Schouteden’s genets showcase:

  • No mid-dorsal crest;
  • Short tail-hairs, 20 – 30 millimeters (0.79 – 1.18 inches), not 40 – 45 (1.58 – 1.77), long;
  • Thin chin stripe.


One of five semi-sympatric ("same-ranging") species with Genetta letabae, Miombo Genets feature darkened upper-limb inner sides.

Genetta angolensis
Genetta angolensis


Consistent with all non-aquatic genets, the five semi-sympatric species in question are as elusively reclusive in the wild as they are affectionately loyal in captivity. They generally avoid conflict with predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles. They cooperate with loose domestications which reward insect and small mammal and reptile control with climbing, jumping, leaping, and running spaces and with tree burrow, hollow, house or platform dens. They get along with family pets and farm animals even though hamsters, poultry, and songbirds may represent potential prey. They prefer life cycles and natural histories based upon:

  • Individual dens in non-overlapping territories for same-gender neighbors and overlapping for mixed;
  • Nocturnal forages;
  • Opportunistic carnivorousness;
  • Rainy-season mating;
  • Yearly litters of 1+ grey-furred offspring.


Rusty-Spotted Panther Genet (Genetta maculata):

Seeming identicalness with G. maculata relegated Letabae Genets to subspecies status until Dr. Philippe Gaubert's discernment suggested promotion to species status for Letabaes in 21st century.
Little Kwara camp on Okavengo Delta, northwestern Botswana
Little Kwara camp on Okavengo Delta, northwestern Botswana

Conclusion: New status as unique species for Letabae Genets in a new century


It can be difficult to observe genets outside museum specimens. Camera-trapping, niche-modeling, and radio-telemetry expand opportunities. National parks, nature reserves, and other protected areas furnish wildlife-lovers with protracted, real-time interactions and investigations. All five possibilities help in sustaining letabae genet populations. Excepting a wider interorbital construction in comparison to frontal width, the letabae genet mirrors the rusty-spotted panther genet’s:

  • Dark, continuous mid-dorsal line;
  • Darkened chin, outer-sided rear paws, tail-tip, and upper-limbs;
  • Hairy soles;
  • Red-brown spots;
  • 12 – 18 tail-bands with the brighter 50 – 70% wider than the darker.

It is this combination of awareness, inquiry, and protection that facilitates understanding the bio-geography and biology of one of the world’s newest species, letabae genets.


Landscape of Letabae Genets' Swaziland homeland:

Phophonyane Falls flow from height of 262 feet (80 meters), forming rapids for 1+ miles (2+ kilometers), over exposed gneiss, considered among earth's oldest rocks with formation dated to 3.55 billion years ago.
Phophonyane Falls, near Piggs Peak, Hhohho Region, northwest Swaziland
Phophonyane Falls, near Piggs Peak, Hhohho Region, northwest Swaziland



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Letabae Genets' human landscape: Mantenga Cultural Village, named "Ligugu Lemaswati" ("pride of Swazi People"), comprises 16 huts constructed of natural materials ( poles, grass, reeds, leather strips, earth and dried cow-dung).

Ligugu Lemaswati replicates classic Swazi lifestyle of 1850s.
Mantenga Cultural Village, Ezulwini Valley, Hhohho Region, northwestern Swaziland
Mantenga Cultural Village, Ezulwini Valley, Hhohho Region, northwestern Swaziland

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Genetta letabae's Swaziland topography:

About the size of Wales or of U.S. state of New Jersey, Swaziland presents diverse climates and topographies.
Swaziland landscape
Swaziland landscape
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Faunal landscape of Letabae Genets' Swaziland homeland: Roan Antelope (Hippotragus equinus), Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, northwest Swaziland: photo by Mark Cardwardine

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

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum), Royal Hlane National Park, Swaziland, Africa: photo by Ann & Steve Toon

Faunal biodiversity in Letabae Genets' Swaziland homeland
White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum), Royal Hlane National Park, Swaziland, Africa

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: 08/02/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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