Thierry's Hausa Genets (Genetta thierryi): Ringtails of the Elbow of Western Africa

by DerdriuMarriner

Abyssinian and Thierry's hausa genets claim old lineages. They alone of genets have bright chins. But hausas inhabit West Africa's Elbow and Abyssinians East Africa's Horn.

The word genet has nothing to do with genes and genetics.
• Its introduction and its spelling in English instead have everything to do with French cultural impacts on the British Isles.

Its origin indeed is in the French word genette.
• The French term links with the animal's introduction into France and Spain by Arabic-speaking Muslims from North Africa 1,400+ years ago.
• It in fact originates in the Arabic designation jarnait for one of Africa's most agile, beautiful, charming, domesticable, elusive wild animals.

Other names surely predate the Arabic term since genets rival cats as Pharaonic Egypt's favorite pets.
• Abyssinians and Thierry's hausans indeed represent the earliest descendants of the common ancestor to today's 14 – 17 genet species.

Genetta thierryi's landscape: Benué River, which rises in northern Cameroon's segment of West Africa's Adamawa Plateau and flows west into Nigeria, then turning south to join Niger River in Lokoja, south central Nigeria.

view of Benué River (French: la Bénoué) from Yola, Adamawa State, northeastern Nigeria
view of Benué River (French: la Bénoué) from Yola, Adamawa State, northeastern Nigeria

 

Common and scientific names act as identifiers of the world's known animals and plants. Common, trivial, or vernacular names become current through expert decisions or tradition's weight. Binomial (“two-name”), Latin, scientific, or taxonomic names emerge from scholarly consensus. But they sometimes find overlaps as translations of beloved, respected common names and vice versa. So goes the case of Thierry's hausa genets. The common name hausa honors the same-named ancient civilization in modern northern Nigeria and the present-day language and peoples of Niger and Nigeria as well as of:

  • Cameroon;

  • Chad;

  • Ghana;

  • Ivory Coast;

  • Sudan;

  • Togo.

The prevailing designations, Genetta thierryi in scientific terminology and Thierry's genet in common speech, memorialize the achievements of the viverrid's pre-eminent collector.

 

 

Official identification of Thierry's hausa genets dates to 1902. It honors Gaston Thierry (July 17, 1866 – September 16, 1904), as:

  • Munich-born Gymnasium (American prep or British public school equivalent) graduate;
  • Naturalist in Cameroon and Togo;
  • Officer attaining first lieutenancy by 1894;
  • Official realizing captaincy by 1902 and Nigeria’s first resident ministry at Adamawa by 1903;
  • Victim attacked by poisoned arrows during Kirdi rebellions near Mubi, Nigeria in 1904 and buried in Garoua, Cameroon.

Its author is Georg Friedrich Paul Matschie (August 11, 1861 – March 7, 1926), as:

  • Brandenburg an der Havel-born zoologist;
  • Halle and Berlin University-educated mathematician and scientist;
  • Zoological Museum of Berlin mammalogist in 1892, curator in 1895, professor in 1902, and second director in 1924.

 

Georg Friedrich Paul Matschie is credited with first description of Genetta thierryi.

1901 image: Zeitschrift "Berliner Leben", Heft 09 ("Berliner Leben" magazine, issue 9)
1901 image: Zeitschrift "Berliner Leben", Heft 09 ("Berliner Leben" magazine, issue 9)

 

The homeland of Thierry's hausa genets includes:

  • Benin;
  • Burkina Faso;
  • Cameroon;
  • Central African Republic;
  • Chad;
  • Gambia;
  • Ghana;
  • Guinea-Bissau;
  • Ivory Coast;
  • Mali;
  • Mauritania;
  • Niger;
  • Nigeria;
  • Senegal;
  • Sierra Leone;
  • Togo.

It merges with West African components in the bio-geographies of:

  • African-Eurasian common small-spotted genets (Genetta genetta);
  • Pardine genets (Genetta pardina);
  • Rusty-spotted panther genets (Genetta maculata).

Distinct physiques and ranges nevertheless obviate misidentifying different genets. For example, common, pardine, and rusty-spotted genets overlap in:

  • Forest-savannah mosaics;
  • Woodland savannahs.

Common genets prefer not to frequent the dense rainforests of pardine, rusty-spotted, and Thierry's genets. Thierry's genets refrain from occupying the montane forests of rusty-spotted genets. With common genets, they relish:

  • Brush-grass, dry, Guinean, and moist savannahs;
  • Dry wooded steppes;
  • Moist woodlands.

 

Ginsterkatzen (Genetta): top = aus Dongola (Genetta genetta); bottom left = aus dem Massailande; bottom right = aus Togo

illustration of genet trio by Paul Matschie's wife, artist Anna Held
Paul Matschie, Verhandlungen des V. Internationalen Zoologen-Congresses zu Berlin, 12.-16 August 19(1902), opp. p. 1144
Paul Matschie, Verhandlungen des V. Internationalen Zoologen-Congresses zu Berlin, 12.-16 August 19(1902), opp. p. 1144

 

Super-quick, super-quiet agility historically challenges genet identifications. But corporeal clarity, orderly markings, and undarkened chins emerge from camera-trapped records and cursory impressions of Thierry's hausa genets. The beige, light grey-brown head has:

  • Alert, rounded, white-tufted ears;
  • Big, dark-rimmed, rounded eyes with white eye-rings;
  • Dark whiskers;
  • Darkened, diagonal muzzle lines;
  • White-patched mouth, nose, and throat.

The same-colored body has:

  • Dark, shoulders-to-tail-base, mid-dorsal line overlaid by a brighter stripe and paralleled on each side by same-length, spot-merged striping;
  • 4 rows of black to rusty spots arranged loosely across each flank;
  • Hairless depressions on each sole;
  • Unspotted limbs.

The dark-tipped tail showcases:

  • Dark base-to-tip, smudged line;
  • 7 – 9 each of incomplete, thinner dark and wider pale (orange-white or white) rings.

 

Genetta thierryi: alert, rounded ears and eyes and mid-dorsal shoulders-to-tail striping

Ina96 derivative work: Genetta thierryi in Donovan Reginald Rosevear (1974)
Ina96 derivative work: Genetta thierryi in Donovan Reginald Rosevear (1974)

 

Scientists believe that Thierry's genets align with general genet life cycles and natural histories. They therefore expect:

  • Allowing home territories to overlap for mixed-gender neighbors but to separate for same-gender neighbors;
  • Avoiding predatory mammals, raptors, and reptiles;
  • Conducting nocturnal forages as couples or singles;
  • Constructing escape networks and foray routes;
  • Establishing regular terrestrial latrines;
  • Feeding as obligate carnivores (“flesh-eaters”) upon small mammals and as opportunistic omnivores (“everything-eaters”) upon eggs, fruits, reptiles, and roots;
  • Locating permanent dens in burrows, crevices or hollows;
  • Scent-marking group territories and home ranges.

They know of 2 sets of 2 – 4 grey-furred kits:

  • Being delivered bi-annually after 78-day gestations;
  • Hearing and seeing within 14 days;
  • Nursing 62 days;
  • Reproducing at 2 – 4 years.

 

Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Pilsen (Czech: Plzeň), western Bohemia, western Czech Republic
Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Pilsen (Czech: Plzeň), western Bohemia, western Czech Republic

 

As adults, Thierry’s genets communicate economy of design and lightness of color. They display physical and sexual maturity with:

  • Dentition of 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 8 molars;
  • Head-and-body lengths of 14.13 – 18.66 inches (359 – 474 millimeters);
  • Tail lengths of 12.09 – 18.39 inches (307 – 467 millimeters);
  • Tail-hair lengths of 0.79 – 1.18 inches (20 – 30 millimeters);
  • Weights of 1.76 – 3.97 pounds (0.8 – 1.8 kilograms).

With adulthood, they find themselves almost:

  • 50% through their estimated 7-year generations;
  • 50 – 75% through their guesstimated life expectancies of 5 – 15 years.

Surviving predators to and through parenthood is uncertain where environmental configurations monthly average:

  • 4.28 inches (108.6 millimeters) in precipitation;
  • 79.83°F (26.57°C) in temperature;
  • 36.05 inches (915.75 millimeters) in evapo-transpiration.

 

Genetta thierryi's landscape: Cameroonian village of Rhumsiki in Mandara Mountains, volcanic range stretching along northern border of Cameroon and Nigeria ~

Kapsiki Peak, volcanic plug rising 4,016 feet (1,224 meters) in Mandara Mountains in Cameroon's Far North Province
Kapsiki Peak, volcanic plug rising 4,016 feet (1,224 meters) in Mandara Mountains in Cameroon's Far North Province

Conclusion: Can Genetta thierryi, whose species name honors a German officer killed by poison arrows, continue to thrive despite toxicities such as over-hunting and ecosystem challenges (global warming, agro-industralism)?

 

In domestication, all genets attempt to get along with people and pets even though birds and hamsters usually remain prey. In the wild, they avoid confrontations. But if need be, they defend themselves with:

  • Arched backs;
  • Digitigrade (“on-the-digits,” “tiptoed”), high-speed ascents, chases, descents, getaways, jumps, and leaps;
  • Handstand-released stink-bombs;
  • Hissed saliva-balls;
  • Raised mid-dorsal and tail hairs;
  • Sharp teeth capable of inflicting lethal, painless, quick nape-of-the-neck bites;
  • Super-refined hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching;
  • 20 curved, retractable, powerful claws.

They therefore may -- or not -- survive predation and sustain populations. But flesh- and fur-seeking over-hunting, globally-warmed climate change, and habitat-fragmenting agro-industrialism necessitate:

  • Governmental enforcement of existing and expanded protected areas;
  • Scientific research into genet bio-geography and biology;
  • Wildlife-lovers’ support.

 

Genetta thierryi's human synecology: Thierry's Genets are hunted for ethnobotanical purposes as bushmeat, fashion, medicine, and rituals (fetishes and symbols).

voodoo fetish market in Lomé, capital, chief port, and administrative/industrial center perfectly sited in southwestern Togo on Gulf of Guinea.
voodoo fetish market in Lomé, capital, chief port, and administrative/industrial center perfectly sited in southwestern Togo on...

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.

 

Genetta thierryi's landscape: northwestern Benin's Pendjari National Park is part of the WAP complex, a vast protected area in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

WAP complex references W Regional Park in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger; Arli National Park in southeastern Burkina Faso; Benin's Pendjari National Park.
Atakora Mountains, northwestern Benin, close to entrance in Batia to Pendjari National Park
Atakora Mountains, northwestern Benin, close to entrance in Batia to Pendjari National Park

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Genetta thierryi's landscape: Sahelian forest in Sahel sub-Saharan savanna ecoregion, Kayes Region, western Mali ~

Sahel is Africa's biogeographic, ecoclimatic zone of transition between Sahara Desert to the north and Sudanian savannah to the south.
Road Bamako-Kayes: Low rolling hills on the way to Kayes. Foreground: acacias; rear center: large baobab tree.
Road Bamako-Kayes: Low rolling hills on the way to Kayes. Foreground: acacias; rear center: large baobab tree.
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Genetta thierryi's human synecology: Bobos, renowned for their masks ~ Bobo masks during festivities, Sikasso, southern Mali: photo by Jean-Pierre De Mann

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 - Robert Harding

Genetta thierryi's human synecology ~ Houses in Djiri Village, Burkina Faso: photo by Michel Gounot

Houses in Djiri Village

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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DerdriuMarriner on 05/24/2014

Mira, Traditional societies attribute symbolism to nature, and it's thought that genets' qualities are imparted to those who consume them or wear their skins or body parts.
It's considered quite an accomplishment amongst hunters to succeed in tracking and capturing or killing elusive game.

Mira on 05/24/2014

Oh, so they're hunted for voodoo purposes, too! Go figure. It makes sense though to use in such rituals more prized animals.

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