IUCN threat status:

Data Deficient (DD)

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Aquatic genet (Genetta piscivora)

The aquatic genet lives in equatorial rainforests of the northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [2]. Its range extends from the northeastern (right) bank of the Congo River to the Rift Valley extending across eastern and northeastern Congo [3], with unconfirmed reports in Uganda and Burundi. It occurs at elevations of 460-1,500 m above sea level. Most specimens come from rainforests dominated by Gilbertiodendron trees, mainly near water or along streams.

It is related to civets and linsangs and was formerly placed in its own genus, Osbornictis, which has now been shown to be the same genus as Genetta.[1]

Unlike other genets, which have spotted coats and ringed tails, the aquatic genet has a plain, rust to dull-red coat and a black, non-ringed tail, with elongated white spots between and above its eyes [3,4] and white on the front and sides of the muzzle. The fur is long and dense, especially on its tail [4]. The palms and soles lack fur, which may be an adaptation to locate, capture and handle slippery aquatic prey. The teeth are relatively small and weak compared to other genets of similar size, with poorly developed molars. The premolars are larger and more developed than the molars. Some have suggested that the teeth are modified to deal with slippery, aquatic prey. The long, lightly built skull has relatively small olfactory bulbs, indicating a poorly developed sense of smell, perhaps linked to specializing on aquatic prey. The total length is 785-910 mm. One adult male had a head and body length of 445 mm and a tail length of 340 mm. An adult male weighed 1430 g, while a female weighed 1500 g [4]. The genet is secretive, seems to be solitary and does not live in groups or families [4]. It probably communicates with others using a combination of visual, auditory, tactile, and olfactory cues. It specializes in catching frogs, fish, crustaceans and other aquatic prey [3,4] with its feet. The bare palms and soles of the feet allow for easier fishing[4] by feeling for fish in muddy holes in streams and rivers. This genet also uses its whiskers to feel the surface of the water for prey. Indigenous people say that the genet also feeds on roots and cultivated cassava tubers left to soak in stream water before the flour preparation process. Males and females probably only come together during the breeding season, which probably corresponds with wet seasons. It is thought that the females care solely for their young; males have no role in raising the young. One female collected in late December contained an embryo, 15 cm long. As most viverrids are altricial at birth, the mother cares for them in a nest or den. After they are weaned, the mothers often bring prey to their young [3].

The conservation status is Data Deficient, but this species is suspected to be "among the rarest of African carnivores" [2], being known only from @ 30 museum specimens. In some parts of its range, indigenous people say it is extremely rare, but other groups report it as being more common. The equatorial forests where it G. piscivora lives are relatively undisturbed and unfragmented, due to their inaccessibility, low human population and poor soil for agriculture. The major threats to this area are habitat loss due to mining and logging [3]. As the genet depends on fish prey, it may be vulnerable to the accumulation of toxins and metals in aquatic systems due to mining activities. Local hunters catch genets with snares usually put out on trails near streams or small rivers (5). The genets are hunted as bushmeat by Bambuti pygmies; the meat is taboo to all, except male elders. The genet has been given complete protection by the Congolese government (Ordinance No. 79-244 of 16 Oct 1979) and occurs in the Okapi Faunal Reserve.


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