Common Palm Civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) are widely distributed across South and Southeast Asia. There are scattered records from Sulawesi, the Moluccas, Timor, and the Aru Islands and they may be present in Papua New Guinea. They were introduced to Japan in the late 1800s.
This is a small civet with a grayish or rusty body, brown or black spots and stripes, a dark mask, and a long tail. The head and body are 42 to 71 cm long with a tail of 33 to 66 cm; weight is 2 to 5 kg. The body size of individuals on islands, notably Borneo, is smaller than on the mainland. The head pattern is highly variable, but generally consists of a dark mask with pale patches below the eyes, on the forehead, and at the bases of the ears.
Common Palm Civets occur in a range of habitats up to 2400 m, including evergreen and deciduous forests (both primary and secondary), plantations, and around human dwellings and settlements. They are mainly frugivorous, but also eat small vertebrates and invertebrates. They are solitary, nocturnal, and largely arboreal, spending the day in trees--and sometimes in buildings. Common Palm Civets deposit their scat, the contents of which can have commercial value as the source of "civet coffee", on the ground and on tree branches.
Breeding seems to occur throughout the year, with a litter size of two to five young. In captivity, gestation is 61 to 63 days. Newborns weigh 69 to 102 g and are born with their eyes closed. They reach sexual maturity at 11 to 12 months.
Although this species is widespread and generally common, population density may be lower in secodary forest than in primary forest. Common Palm Civets are often considered pests by fruit farmers and killed. They are also trapped and traded for meat and are sometimes kept as pets and used as rat catchers (which may explain their introduction to some areas). The subspecies (sometimes considered a distinct species) on the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia may be under threat due to commercial logging.
(Jennings and Veron 2009 and references therein)
- Jennings, A.P. and G. Veron. 2009. Viverridae (Civets, Genets, and Oyans). Pp. 174-232 in: Wilson, D.E. and Mittermeier, R.A., eds. Handbook of the Mammals of the World. Volume 2. Hoofed Mammals. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
It was also introduced to Japan in the late 1800s, and still persists there today (S. Roy in litt. 2006). It has also been recorded from the islands of Bawean (Indonesia), Con Son (Viet Nam), Koh Samui (Thailand), Koh yao (Thailand), Samar (Philippines), and Telebon (Thailand) (Meiri, 2005), in addition to many others (Pocock 1939). Paradoxurus lignicolor (included in Paradoxurus hermaphroditus by Wilson and Reeder 2005) was recorded by Abegg (2003) on Siberut of the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia.
In addition it has been found on the Philippine islands of Biliran, Maripipi (Rickart et al. 1993) Mindoro, Catanduanes (Heaney et al. 1991), Cebu, Masbate, Polillo, Ilin, Samar, Dumaran and Panay (Timm and Birney 1980; Lastimosa pers. comm.).
Paradoxurus hermaphroditus is found from Kashmir in the west to the Philippines in the east; from southern China and the Himalayas in the north to the Greater Sundas and many lesser Sunda Islands in the south.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Average mass: 3100 g.
Average basal metabolic rate: 5.534 W.
Habitat and Ecology
In the Philippines the species has been recorded in agricultural (including coffee plantations) and forested areas from sea level up to at least 2,400 m asl (Balete and Heaney in press, Heaney et al. 1991 in press, Hoogstraal 1951, Rabor 1986, Thomas 1898) and in montane and mossy forest from 925-2150 m asl in Balbalasang, Kalinga Province (Heaney et al.
In Lao PDR, this species has been found in all habitats surveyed, from Mekong lowlands to montane areas, evergreen to deciduous forest to scrub (Duckworth et al. 1999). This species is adapted for forest living, yet it tolerates living in areas near humans; sleeping in barns, drains, or roofs during the day, and coming out at night to catch rats or forage for mango, coffee, pineapples, melons, and bananas, it also eats insects and mollusks (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). In Myanmar, it was recorded in mixed deciduous forest and a wide range of evergreen forest-dominated sites (Su Su, 2005, than Zaw et al. in press). This species was recorded in primary lowland rainforest in Tawau Hills National Park in Borneo by Wells et al. (2005). All Bornean civets (except Diplogale hosei) have been recorded in disturbed forest areas, though abundance declines in this habitat (Heydon and Bulloh, 1996; Colon, 2002; pers. comm.). It was recorded in disturbed habitat in Malaysia by Ratnam et al. (1995). It was recorded in secondary forest, that was logged in the 1970s, and which surrounds a palm estate, in Malaysia in 2000-01 by Azlan (2003). This species is largely arboreal (Payne et al. 1985), crepuscular (Azlan, 2005) and nocturnal (e.g. Duckworth 1997). There is interesting variation across its mainland range in habitat use. In Lao PDR it occurs commonly deep within old-growth evergreen and semi-evergreen forest (Duckworth 1997) but it seems to avoid such habitat in the Western Ghats (Mudappa in press).
Palm civets live in tropical forested habitats.
Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest
Palm civets are primarily frugivorous, feeding on berries and pulpy fruits, including those of Ficus trees and palms. P. hermaphroditus is said to pick its fruit carefully, apparently leaving the less ripe fruit for a later date. Palm civets will eat reptiles, eggs, and insects as well.
Paradoxurus hermaphroditus sometimes feeds on the fruits of coffee trees. The coffee beans (seeds) pass through the digestive tract of these civets whole and are collected by humans for use in coffee. This kind of coffee is sought after for its unusual flavor and for its rarity. It was once a regional specialty but is now marketed in high end coffee markets worldwide.
Life History and Behavior
Status: captivity: 22.4 years.
Status: wild: 22.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
During brief periods of mating and when the females have their young, the civets occupy resting trees together.
Average birth mass: 88.65 g.
Average gestation period: 60 days.
Average number of offspring: 3.4.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 341 days.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Palm civets are persecuted by fruit agriculturalists. Their habitats are also threatened.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Palm civets are sometimes considered pests to fruit plantations.
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Palm civets disperse the seeds of the trees on which they feed.
Asian palm civet
The Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), also called toddy cat, is a small member of the Viverridae family native to South and Southeast Asia. In 2008, the IUCN classified the species as Least Concern as it is tolerant of a broad range of habitats. It is widely distributed with large populations that in 2008 were thought unlikely to be declining. In 2012, it was suggested that recent increases in capturing the animals for Kopi Luwak production may constitute a significant threat to wild civet populations.
The Asian palm civet is a small, mottled gray and black viverrid weighing 2 to 5 kg (4.4 to 11.0 lb). It has a body length of about 53 cm (21 in) with a 48 cm (19 in) long tail. Its long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually greyish in color. There is a white mask across the forehead, a small white patch under each eye, a white spot on each side of the nostrils, and a narrow dark line between the eyes. The muzzle, ears, lower legs, and distal half of the tail are black, with three rows of black markings on the body. The tail is without rings, unlike in similar civet species. Anal scent glands emit a nauseating secretion as a chemical defense when threatened or upset. Despite its species name hermaphroditus, the civets (like all other mammals) have two distinct sexes and are not hermaphrodites.
Distribution and habitat
Asian palm civets are native to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Philippines and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bawean and Siberut. They were introduced to Irian Jaya, the Lesser Sunda Islands, Maluku, Sulawesi and Japan. In Papua New Guinea, their presence is uncertain.
They also inhabit parks and suburban gardens with mature fruit trees, fig trees and undisturbed vegetation. Their sharp claws allow them to climb trees and house gutters. In most parts of Sri Lanka, palm civets are considered a nuisance since they litter in ceilings and attics of common households, and make loud noises fighting and moving about at night.
Ecology and behaviour
Asian palm civets are believed to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating. They are both terrestrial and arboreal, showing nocturnal activity patterns with peaks between late evening until after midnight. They are usually active between 6:00 pm and 4:00 am, being less active during nights when the moon is brightest.
Scent marking behaviour and olfactory response to various excretions such as secretion of the perineal gland, urine and feces differs in males and females. Scent marking by dragging the perineal gland and leaving the secretion on the substrate was most commonly observed in animals of both sexes. The olfactory response varied by duration and depended both on the sex and excretion type. The palm civet can distinguish animal species, sex, and familiar/unfamiliar individuals by the odor of the perineal gland secretion.
Feeding and diet
Asian palm civets are omnivores utilizing fruits such as berries and pulpy fruits as a major food source, and thus help to maintain tropical forest ecosystems via seed dispersal. They eat chiku, mango, rambutan and coffee, but also small mammals and insects. Ecologically, they fill a similar niche in Asia as common raccoons in North America. They play an important role in the natural regeneration of Pinanga kuhlii and P. zavana palms at Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park. They also feed on palm flower sap, which when fermented becomes toddy, a sweet liquor. Because of this habit they are called the toddy cat.
Due to their solitary and nocturnal habits, little is known about the reproductive processes and behaviour of civets. In March 2010, a pair of palm civets was observed when attempting to mate. The pair copulated on the tree branch for about five minutes. During that period the male mounted the female 4–5 times. After each mounting the pair separated for few moments and repeated the same procedure. After completion of mating, the pair frolicked around for some time, moving from branch to branch on the tree. The animals separated after about six minutes and moved off to different branches and rested there.
In some parts of its range Asian palm civets are hunted for bush meat and the pet trade. In southern China it is extensively hunted and trapped. Dead individuals were found with local tribes in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and Agra, Uttar Pradesh in India between 1998 and 2003, where it is killed for its meat. The oil extracted from small pieces of the meat kept in linseed oil in a closed earthen pot and regularly sunned is used indigenously as a cure for scabies.
Kopi Luwak is coffee prepared using coffee beans that have been subjected to ingestion and fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract of the Asian palm civet, which is called luwak in Indonesia. Caffeine content in both Arabica and Robusta luwak coffee is lower than in unfermented coffee. Large deformation mechanical rheology testing revealed that civet coffee beans are harder and more brittle in nature than their control counterparts indicating that digestive juices enter into the beans and modify the micro-structural properties of these beans. Proteolytic enzymes cause substantial breakdown of storage proteins.
Kopi Luwak is traditionally made from the faeces of wild civets, however, due to it becoming a trendy drink, civets are being increasingly captured from the wild and fed coffee beans to mass-produce this blend. Many of these civets are housed in battery cage systems which have been criticised on animal welfare grounds. The impact of the demand for this fashionable coffee on wild civet populations is yet unknown but may constitute a significant threat. In Indonesia, the demand for Asian palm civets appears to be in violation of the quota set for pets.
Since Peter Simon Pallas's first description published in 1777, a significant number of subspecies have been described between 1820 and 1992. They are listed according to the year of first description:
- P. h. hermaphroditus (Pallas, 1777) — ranges in Sri Lanka and southern India as far north as the Narbada River;
- P. h. bondar (Desmarest, 1820) — was described from Bengal and Nepal Terai;
- P. h. musanga (Raffles, 1821)
- P. h. javanica (Horsfield, 1824)
- P. h. pallasii (Gray, 1832) — was described from the hills of Nepal, and ranges from Nepal, Sikkim, Assam to upper Myanmar;
- P. h. philippinensis (Jourdan, 1837)
- P. h. setosus (Jacquinot and Pucheran, 1853)
- P. h. nictitans (Taylor, 1891) — was described from Odisha;
- P. h. lignicolor (Miller, 1903)
- P. h. minor (Bonhote, 1903)
- P. h. canescens (Lyon, 1907)
- P. h. milleri (Kloss, 1908)
- P. h. kangeanus (Thomas, 1910)
- P. h. sumbanus (Schwarz, 1910)
- P. h. exitus (Schwarz, 1911)
- P. h. cochinensis (Schwarz, 1911)
- P. h. canus (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. pallens (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. parvus (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. pugnax (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. pulcher (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. sacer (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. senex (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. simplex (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. enganus (Lyon, 1916)
- P. h. laotum (Gyldenstolpe, 1917) — was described from Chieng Hai in north-western Thailand, and ranges from Myanmar to Indochina and Hainan;
- P. h. balicus (Sody, 1933)
- P. h. scindiae (Pocock, 1934) — was described from Gwalior, and ranges in central India;
- P. h. vellerosus (Pocock, 1934) — was described from Kashmir;
- P. h. dongfangensis (Corbet and Hill, 1992)
The taxonomic status of these subspecies has not yet been evaluated.
- Musang or Alamid in the Philippines;
- Musang in Malaysia and in Indonesia, in latter also Luwak;
- Motit,Amunin in the Gran Cordillera Central mountain range of northern Philippines;
- Punugu Pilli in southwest Andhra Pradesh, South Central India;
- Gondhogokul,Khatash,Vham and other many names in Bengali;
- Marapatti or "മരപ്പട്ടി", translates as 'tree-dog' or 'wood-dog', in the indigenous language of Malayalam in the state of Kerala in southern India;
- Maranai in Tamil, also meaning 'tree-dog' or 'wood-dog';
- Vaniyar ᦠᦲᧃ (IPA: [ɡuj] in Gujarat state;
- " Kandechor" कांदेचोर(meaning 'onion stealer') in Konkan, Maharashtra, India.
- Uguduwa in Sinhala of Sri Lanka;
- Cầy vòi hương in Vietnamese;
- PuLi.ngaa maajjar in Konkani Language;
- Ii Hěn อีเห็น (IPA: [ʔii.hěn]) in Thailand;
- Hěn ເຫັນ (IPA: [hěn])or Ngěn ເຫງັນ (IPA: [ŋěn]) in Laos;
- Hěn ႁဵၼ် (IPA: [hěn]) in Shan of the Shan states, Myanmar;
- Hǐn ᦠᦲᧃ (IPA: [hín]) in Tai Lü of Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China.
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