Viverricula indica inhabits areas across Asia, from southern and central China in the east through Indochina and India. Its range also stretches south into the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. This species has been introduced to Zanzibar, Madagascar, Comoros, and Socotra (islands off the East coast of Africa) as well as several islands in the Philippines.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Introduced , Native ); ethiopian (Introduced )
Small Indian civets have brown, yellow, or tawny orange pelage ornamented with black and white rings on their necks, small spots on the body which converge into six to eight dark stripes on the back toward the tail, and black-and-white banded tails. The paws are typically dark brown or black, and the breast is a lighter brown or gray, with few if any markings. Small Indian civets are distinguished from closely related civets (Viverra) by their significantly smaller size, lack of a dorsal crest of fur, smaller gap between their ears, and shorter rostra. Males are generally larger than females.
Range mass: 2 to 4 kg.
Average mass: 2.7 kg.
Range length: 750 to 1060 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger
The habitat of small Indian civets is highly variable, as they have adapted to a wide variety of different living conditions throughout their vast geographic range. In many places, they live in close proximity to humans, and have not suffered due to human encroachment. In fact, in many places they are most commonly seen feeding on poultry and living in gutters or outhouses or even garbage dumps. Small Indian civets prefer open areas, dense rainforest sightings (with camera traps) occur much less frequently than sightings in riverine, deciduous forest, and grassland environments. They are typically found at lower altitudes, although their adaptability has rendered exact limits difficult to define.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural ; riparian
Habitat and Ecology
Although some viverrids feed primarily on fruit, small Indian civets are primarily carnivorous. They eat mainly small vertebrates, especially rodents. However, they are also opportunistic and will eat fruit, carrion, and human garbage. They have been reported preying on small pets and livestock as well.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; carrion ; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: roots and tubers; fruit
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)
Small Indian civets seem to have adapted to fill a niche different than similar species: the larger members of genus Viverra are speculated to be large enough to be ecologically independent of V. indica due to marginalized competition. Their primary ecological impact may be to control rodent populations. Their high adaptability means they are found in many kinds of environments and can switch foraging strategies opportunistically. Ecological impacts, therefore, vary across their range. In Madagascar, it is likely that the thriving populations of V. indica have caused a decrease in size of populations of falanoucs (Eupleres goudotii) and Malagasy civets (Fossa fossana) due to competition. Little is known about status and ecology of populations of V. indica on Socotra and Zanzibar.
Small Indian civets can carry diseases, but their role as a disease vector seems to be minimal. They are affected by a variety of external parasites. However, little research has been done on V. indica as a host species, and therefore further details are largely unknown.
- helminths (Cestoda)
- ticks (Ixodidae)
- nematodes (Nematoda)
Small Indian civets have few natural predators. They are opportunistically taken when weak, sick, or injured by larger predators. They are occasionally eaten by humans and domestic dogs. Their first reaction when confronted with a potential threat is to run and hide. They are quick, climb well, and are well camouflaged by their striped coats. They are also mainly nocturnal and hide in burrows for the majority of the day. If confronted or cornered, they will bite and claw in self-defense.
- domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris)
- humans (Homo sapiens)
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Because small Indian civets are solitary, communication is minimal except before and during mating. They use both acoustic and chemical communication as part of the mating process. When animals are not paired or mating, scent markings (urine and feces) are probably the only means of communication and may warn others of territory boundaries.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Data is not available on the lifespan of wild animals. In captivity several sources report maximum lifespans of twenty years or more.
Status: captivity: 22 (high) years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Viverricula indica is almost completely solitary and asocial, except during mating season. Mating typically occurs once a year. The processes by which mates are chosen is largely unknown. There is no data on whether individuals associate more with former mates or show preferences to mates which have any specific morphology.
The civet gland has been shown to be of great importance to reproduction. It is likely the chemicals emitted by this gland attract mates to each other or demonstrate which animals are in estrus. During periods of estrus, both males and females deposit civet oil from their glands on many types of objects. In a study of reproduction in captivity, males rubbed their civet oil on cages of both other male and female individuals, while females rubbed their oils only on their own cages. This could show male dominance or a form of male competition for mates and female mate choice. According to the same study, males also made a unique "da-da-da" sound while excited. The male chased the female and then sniffed her anus prior to copulation.
Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
In captivity, researchers in China have shown that Viverricula indica has two estrus periods. The majority of individuals came into heat from February to April, but a few came into heat in August and September. In the wild, little is known about estrus cycles in this species. It is thought that animals can enter estrus at any time of year in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In Madagascar, the breeding season is thought to be September to October. Data for newborn animals through weaning is largely unavailable. Available information comes from animals in captivity. Females give birth to from 2 to 5 young that are weaned at 4 to 4.5 months old.
Breeding interval: Breeding seems to occur once yearly.
Breeding season: Breeding can occur throughout the year in some areas. Breeding may be season in other areas.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 5.
Range weaning age: 4 to 4.5 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Little research on parental investment has been done, but females wean their young at roughly four months. Females are probably the sole providers of parental care.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Although its natural habitat has become compromised by human encroachment, Viverricula indica continues to thrive, and the overall population trend is reported to be "steady" by IUCN. Small Indian civets are highly adaptable and human encroachment does not seem to have a very negative impact on their range. They are minimally threatened by hunting for pelts and killing by farmers to protect livestock. They are widely considered pests and have become a dominant competitor in Madagascar where they were introduced. There is therefore a much greater concern for the conservation of other species which it affects than there is for V. indica itself.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix iii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Small Indian civets can bite if cornered or if captured in self-defense. Although rare, they can carry rabies, which is potentially deadly for other animals and humans. Small Indian civets are fond of eating chickens when living in close proximity to humans and can eat small household pets. As a result they are considered pestd in some areas.
Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, carries human disease); causes or carries domestic animal disease ; household pest
Small Indian civets eat disease-causing pests, especially mice and rats and are sometimes sold as pets to control rodents. Many native peoples keep small Indian civets to harvest the civet oil that these animals produce from special glands near their genitals. Their pelts are sold as exotic fur.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; body parts are source of valuable material; controls pest population
Small Indian civet
The small Indian civet (Viverricula indica) is a civet found in South and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Least Concern by IUCN because of its widespread geographical distribution, widespread habitat use and healthy populations living in agricultural and secondary landscapes of many range states.
The small Indian civet is 21 to 23 in (53 to 58 cm) in head and body size and has a rather coarse fur that is brownish grey to pale yellowish brown, with usually several longitudinal black or brown bands on the back and longitudinal rows of spots on the sides. In some specimens both lines and spots are indistinct, and the dorsal bands are occasionally wanting. Usually there are five or six distinct bands on the back and four or five rows of spots on each side. The neck markings are rather variable. Generally there are two dark stripes from behind the ear to the shoulders, and often a third in front, crossing the throat. The underfur is brown or grey, often grey on the upper parts of the body and brown on the lower. The grey hairs on the upper parts are often tipped with black. The head is grey or brownish grey, the chin often brown. The ears are short and rounded with a dusky mark behind each ear, and one in front of each eye. The feet are brown or black. The tapering tail is 15 to 17 in (38 to 43 cm) long with alternating black and whitish rings, seven to nine of each colour.
Distribution and habitat
Small Indian civets are known to occur in south and central China, Hong Kong, most of India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. No search has been made for recent records from Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Peninsular Malaysia, Java or Bali, areas where they were historically recorded. Their current status in Singapore is unclear. They have been introduced to Madagascar.
Distribution of subspecies
- V. i. indica (Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803) — is distributed in Southern India from the Western to the Eastern Ghats and as far north as Lake Chilka on the east coast;
- V. i. pallida (Gray, 1831) — ranges in southern China and Taiwan;
- V. i. bengalensis (Gray and Hardwicke, 1832) — lives in the plains of Northern India, south of the Ganges, from Calcutta to Gujerat, and possibly Sind;
- V. i. deserti (Bonhote, 1898) — was described from Rajputana;
- V. i. thai (Kloss, 1919) — is distributed in Thailand, Indochina, and Myanmar;
- V. i. muriavensis (Sody, 1931) — was described from Java and Bali;
- V. i. mayori (Pocock, 1933) — is distributed in Sri Lanka;
- V. i. wellsi (Pocock, 1933) — is distributed in Kangra, Kumaun, and the United Provinces;
- V. i. baptistæ (Pocock, 1933) — ranges from Bhutan and Upper Bengal to Assam.
Ecology and behavior
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