Habitat and Ecology
Natural forests have completely disappeared in the entire stretch of coastal Western Ghats, thus the present vegetation is of secondary origin (Champion and Seth, 1968), and is mostly plantations (Ashraf et al, 1993). Of these, cashew plantations are the least disturbed, as they are not weeded, providing a dense understory of shrubs and grasses for this terrestrial species to take refuge in (Ashraf et al, 1993). However, most records from 1960-1990 were in valleys around riparian areas, suggesting that this species is dependent of shallow water courses where it may forage at night (Ashraf et al, 1993).
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Critically Endangered
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Endangered(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 07/27/1979
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Population location: entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Viverra civettina, see its USFWS Species Profile
This species was once very common in the districts of Malabar and Travancore in southwest India, but by the late 1960s it was thought to be near extinction, it was not sighted again until 1987. From 1950 to 1990 there were only two possible sightings of this species, one in Kudremukh in Karnataka (Karanth 1986) and the other in Tiruvella in Kerala (Kurup, 1989). After being listed as possibly extinct, it was rediscovered in Elayur, in the lowland Western Ghats, in Malappuram district, Kerala (Kurup 1989).
In the past, this species was widely used to collect civet oil. It is now threatened by habitat loss and retaliatory killings for raiding poultry. This species is seriously threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation, as well as by hunting, as it occurs outside protected areas (Ashraf et al. 1993). The use of civet-musk is said to have been in widespread use between 1965-1970 (Ashraf et al. 1993). Cashew plantations, which may hold most of the surviving populations of this species, are threatened by large-scale clearance for planting rubber trees (Ashraf et al. 1993). This species is not selectively hunted, but 10 of 22 records from 1950 to 1990 were caught by dogs (Ashraf et al. 1990).
Malabar large-spotted civet
The Malabar large-spotted civet (Viverra civettina), also known as the Malabar civet, is a viverrid endemic to the Western Ghats of India. It is listed as Critically Endangered by IUCN as its population size is estimated to number fewer than 250 mature individuals, with no subpopulation greater than 50 individuals. In the 1990s, isolated populations still survived in less disturbed areas of South Malabar but were seriously threatened by habitat destruction and hunting because they are outside protected areas.
It is called Jawadi Veruku - ജാവാദി വെരുകു് in Malayalam and Chirathe Bekku in Kannada. It was once common along the lowland coastal tracts of Kerala and Karnataka in South India and became rare by the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1960s, it was still often used for producing civetin musk.
The ground-colour of the Malabar large-spotted civet is clear grey, and the coat tolerably long and full with a nearly black pattern of closely set spots. The tail has five white rings extending farther up the sides. The muzzle and chin are white. In external characters, it is distinguished principally from the large-spotted civet by the greater nakedness of the soles of the feet, the hairs on the interdigital webs being between the digital pads, forming submarginal patches, with the skin in front and at the sides of the plantar pad naked. On the hind foot also remnants of the metatarsal pads persist as two naked spots, the external a little above the level of the hallux, the internal considerably higher. A male individual kept in the Zoological Gardens of Trivandrum in the 1930s measured 30 in (76 cm) in head and body with a 13 in (33 cm) long tail and weighed 14.5 lb (6.6 kg).
The spots roughly form vague vertical stripes on the body. Another distinguishing feature from the sympatric small Indian civet (Viverricula indica), with which it might be confused, is its shorter tail when compared its body length and the presence of a crest of black erectile hairs on the back, which are characteristic of all the Viverra species.
Distribution and habitat
The Malabar large-spotted civet 's original habitat was found in the Malabar Coast moist forests belt below the Western Ghats, where it lived in wooded plains and adjoining hill slopes. It was once very common in the coastal districts of Malabar and Travancore. Extensive deforestation has reduced the Malabar forests to a series of isolated patches. Cashew plantations are a refuge, which probably hold most of the surviving populations of the Malabar large-spotted civet, and are now threatened by large-scale clearance for rubber plantations.
Ecology and behavior
This nocturnal animal is carnivorous, solitary and aggressive in nature. It forages on the ground and has never been observed in trees. It feeds on small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes, birds eggs and some vegetable matter. The species is reportedly difficult to maintain in captivity for extracting musk, a secretion from anal glands of all civets that is used as a stabilizing agent in perfumes, in oriental medicine and flavouring 'beedis' (local cigarettes).
The major threat facing isolated populations that have managed to survive in marginal habitats is changing cash crop practices and accidental hunting with dogs. They tend to be treated as raiders of poultry, and are captured and killed when encountered.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 532–628. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Jennings, A., Veron, G. and Helgen, K. (2008). "Viverra civettina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Ashraf, N. V. K., Kumar, A. and Johnsingh, A. J. T. (1993). Two endemic viverrids of the Western Ghats, India. Oryx 27: 109.
- Pocock, R. I. (1939). The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. – Volume 1. Taylor and Francis, London.
- Massicot, P. (2005). Malabar Large Spotted Civet Animal Info, retrieved 11/3/2007
- Ministry of Tourism, Government of India (2006) Endangered Species, retrieved 11/3/2007 Malabar Large Spotted Civet
- Ellerman, J. R. and Morrison-Scott, T. C. S. (1966). Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian Mammals 1758 to 1946. Second edition. British Museum of Natural History, London.
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