Low elevation wet forests
Occurrence is States along Western Ghats
Occurrence in Latitudes degrees N
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).
Low elevation wet forests
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Critically Endangered (CR)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Endangered (E)
- 1988Endangered (E)
- 1986Endangered (E)
Date Listed: 07/27/1979
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
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 lived outside protected areas.
The Malabar large-spotted civet is dusky gray. It has a dark mark on the cheek, large transverse dark marks on the back and sides, and two obliquely transverse dark lines on the neck. These dark marks are more pronounced than in the large Indian civet. Its throat and neck are white. A mane starts between the shoulders. Its tail is ringed with dark bands. The feet are dark. It differs from the large-spotted civet by the greater nakedness of the soles of the feet. The hairs on the interdigital webs between the digital pads form submarginal patches; the skin of the plantar pad is naked in front and at the sides. There are remnants of the metatarsal pads on the hind foot 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).
Distribution and habitat
In the 19th century, Malabar civets occurred throughout the Malabar coast from the latitude of Honore to Cape Comorin. They inhabited the forests and richly wooded lowland, and were occasionally found on elevated forest tracts. They were considered abundant in Travancore.
Until the 1960s, extensive deforestation has reduced most of the natural forests in the entire stretch of the coastal Western Ghats. By the late 1960s, Malabar civets were thought to be near extinction. In 1987, one individual was sighted in Kerala.
In 1987, two skins were obtained near Nilambur in northern Kerala, an area that is dominated by cashew and rubber plantations. Two more skins were found in this area in 1990. These plantations probably held most of the surviving population, as these were little disturbed and provided a dense understory of shrubs and grasses. Large-scale clearance for planting rubber trees threatened this habitat.
Interviews conducted in the early 1990s among local hunters indicated their presence in protected areas of Karnataka. During camera traping surveys in lowland evergreen and semi-evergreen forests in the Western Ghats of Karnataka and Kerala from April 2006 to March 2007, no photographic record was obtained in a total of 1,084 camera trap nights.
Ecology and behavior
It is now seriously threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation. Until the 1990s, it was confined to remnant forests and disturbed thickets in cashew and rubber plantations in northern Kerala, where the hunting pressure was another major threat.
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- Kurup, C. U. (1987). The rediscovery of the Malabar civet, Viverra megaspila civettina Blyth in lndia. Cheetal 28(2): 1–4.
- Rao, S., Ashraf, N. V. K. and Nixon, A. M. A. (2007). Search for the Malabar Civet Viverra civettina in Karnataka and Kerala, India, 2006–2007. Small Carnivore Conservation 37: 6–10.
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