Otter civet (Cynogale bennettii)
There is no evidence that the civet is specifically hunted, but this ground-dwelling species is exposed to snares and other ground-level traps set for other species . Civet oil or civet is secreted from the glands in the genital area and has been used for centuries in the perfume industry. It is refined and processed into the base of perfume . The supposed origin of Lowe's otter civet (C. lowei), known from one holotype found in 1926 in northern Vietnam, has not been confirmed.
Cynogale bennettii, more commonly known as the otter civet or mampalon, inhabits the Malay Penninsula and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. They may also occur in southern Thailand.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World Sixth Edition Vol. 1. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.
Lekagul and McNeeley (1977) listed the species in southern Thailand, but there were no confirmed records until 1992 (Kanchanasaka pers. comm.). Another record in Kaeng Krachan National Park in 1998 confirms its presence in southern Thailand (Anon 1998). There is also an unconfirmed sighting from northern Thailand from Phu Kradung National Park in 1986 (Schreiber 1989; Veron et al. 2006), which should be viewed with skepticism until corroborated, as it would take the species range out of the purely Sundaic pattern is shows by all other records and it is based on an unverified local report.
Recent records of this species from Borneo include sightings in Sarawak (Sebastian 2005; Belden et al. 2007s) and in Sabah (Veron et al. 2006). The otter civet has been recorded as high as 1,370 m above Bario in Sarawak, but the majority of records are from lowland forest (Veron et al, 2006).There are some camera trap pictures of this species in Sumatra (Veron et al. 2006). There is also a possible record from a fisherman's house near Yilong Lake in southern Yunnan, China in 1973, which is of unknown provenance (Schreiber et al. 1989). If the species does actually occur in both northern Thailand and Yunnan (China), then it is likely to also occur in Lao PDR (Duckworth et al. 1999).
Otter civets are approximately 705-880 mm. from head to tail (Nowak 1999). The fur ranges in color from pale close to the skin to almost black at the tips. The blackish fur is interspersed with longer gray hairs, giving it a frosted look (Nowak 1999). The vibrissae, or whiskers, are very long and there are many of them (Burton and Pearson 1987). Cynogale bennettii is a prime example of the diversification and specializations that have arisen in the family Viverridae (Joshi et al. 1995).
Cynogale bennettii possess several features which suit its aquatic lifestyle. Their nostrils can be closed with flaps, as can their ears (Nowak 1999). Their feet are webbed and rather wide for swimming. Their teeth show similarities to those of a seal. Otter civets have three premolars, two of which have jagged edges. The molars are wide with many ridges. The tooth pattern is different from the typical secodont dentition of most carnivores (Parker 1990).
Range mass: 3 to 5 kg.
Range length: 705 to 880 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
- Burton, J., B. Pearson. 1987. The Collins Guide to the Rare Mammals of the World. Lexington, MA: Stephen Greene Press.
- Joshi, A., J. Smith, F. Cuthbert. November, 1995. Journal of Mammalogy, 76: 1205-1212.
- Parker, S. 1990. Grimzek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol 3. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill INC..
Due to its semi-aquatic nature, Cynogale bennettii resides in swampy wetlands and borders of streams and rivers in tropical Southeast Asia and Indonesia (Nowak 1999). Otter Civets are terrestrial animals, but will never stray too far from water (Burton et al. 1987).
Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest
Habitat and Ecology
As the otter civet is semiaquatic (Veron et al, 2006) and known to forage in the water (Medway, 1978; Lekagul and McNeely 1977; Yasuma, 1994), it is assumed that this species feeds on fish, crabs, mollusks, small mammals, and birds (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). It is also thought to be nocturnal (Sebastian, 2005), though there is data indicating it is also occasionally active during the day (see data from N. Franklin; G. Veron pers. comm. 2006; Sebastian 2005).
Judging from the Otter Civet's dention patterns, scientists believe the diet consists of fish, mollusks, crayfish, small mammals, and birds (Parker 1990). Cynogale bennettii is also thought to capture small mammals and birds as the prey drinks from the edges of streams and rivers. It has been hypothesized that the Otter Civet lies in wait for its prey, actually skimming the surface of the water, much like a crocodile or alligator (Parker 1990).
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 5.0 years.
Status: captivity: 5.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Very little information exists on the breeding patterns of Cynogale bennettii. Females will generally have between two and three young per season. Young have been found still with their mothers in May. The young are born without the frosted hairs on their backs. Scent glands have been found near the genital areas of males, which may play a role in reproduction
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average number of offspring: 2.
Experts hypothesize that otter civet populations may have declined by at least 50 percent. Suspected causes include habitat loss due to human settlement and agriculture. Competition from other more adapted species has also been mentioned (Nowak 1999).
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Insufficiently Known(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Insufficiently Known(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
This species is found in many protected areas throughout its range. Including Samunsam Wildlife Sanctuary in western Sarawak in 2000 (Sebastian, 2005), Kaeng Krachan National Park (12 57 N, 99 23 E) in Thailand in 1998 (Anon, 1998), Bukit Sarang Conservation Area in Sarawak (Belden et al. 2007), Way Kambas National Park in Sumatra (Veron et al, 2006), Danau Sentarum National Park (Jeanes and Meijaard 2000), and Leuser National Park in Sumatra (van Strien, 1996).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
From the glands in the genital area, civet oil or civet is secreted. This substance has been used for centuries in the perfume industry. It is refined and processed into the base of perfume (Gould et al. 1998).
The otter civet (Cynogale bennettii) is a semi-aquatic civet native to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei. It is listed as Endangered because of a serious ongoing population decline, estimated to be more than 50% over the past three generations (estimated to be 15 years), inferred from direct habitat destruction, and indirect inferred declines due to pollutants.
The otter civet possesses several adaptations to its habitat, including a broad mouth and webbed feet with naked soles and long claws. Its muzzle is long with numerous long whiskers. It is in many ways similar to the Hose's palm civet (Diplogale hosei) but has a shorter tail and no whitish underparts.
Distribution and habitat
Otter civets are distributed in Sumatra, Borneo and peninsular Thailand. Preferred habitat appears to be lowland primary forest, but they have also been recorded in secondary forest, bamboo and logged forest. The supposed origin of Lowe's otter civet (C. lowei) known only from one holotype found in 1926 in northern Vietnam was not confirmed. They are thought to be largely confined to peat swamp forests, though there are recent records from lowland dry forest.
In March 2005, an otter civet was camera trapped within an Acacia plantation in central Sarawak during 1,632 trap-nights. Between July 2008 and January 2009, ten otter civets were photographed in an area of about 112 km2 (43 sq mi) in Sabah's Deramakot Forest Reserve, a lowland tropical rainforest in Borneo ranging in altitude from 60–250 m (200–820 ft). In May 2009, the presence of otter civets was documented for the first time in central Kalimantan, where two individuals were photographed in the Sabangau Peat-swamp Forest at an elevation of about 11 m (36 ft).
Ecology and behaviour
The otter civet is a nocturnal species that obtains most of its food from the water, feeding on fish, crabs and freshwater mollusks. It can also climb to feed on birds and fruit. Given its rarity and secretive nature it is a very poorly known species.
Conversion of peat swamp forests to oil palm plantations is a major threat. There is no evidence that the species is specifically hunted, but as a ground-dwelling species it is exposed to snares and other ground-level traps set for other species. Clear-cut logging is one of the major factors contributing to decline in suitable habitat, and even selective logging may sufficiently alter habitat such that it is the species can no longer occupy it; combined, this loss of primary forest may be responsible for the current rarity of the otter civet.
- Duckworth, J. W., Sebastian, T., Jennings, A. and Veron, G. (2008). "Cynogale bennettii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 552. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Veron, G., Gaubert, P., Franklin, N., Jennings, A. P. and Grassman Jr., L. I. (2006). A reassessment of the distribution and taxonomy of the Endangered otter civet Cynogale bennettii (Carnivora: Viverridae) of South-east Asia. Oryx 40: 42–49.
- Sebastian, A. C. (2005). Sighting of a Sunda Otter Civet Cynogale bennettii in Sarawak. Small Carnivore Conservation 33: 24–25.
- Giman, B., Stuebing, R., Megum, N., Mcshea, W. J., Stewart, C. M. (2007). A camera trapping inventory for mammals in a mixed use planted forest in Sarawak. Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 55: 209–215.
- Wilting, A., Samejima, H., Mohamed, A. (2010). Diversity of Bornean viverrids and other small carnivores in Deramakot Forest Reserve, Sabah, Malaysia. Small Carnivore Conservation 42: 10–13.
- Cheyne, S. M., Husson, S. J., Macdonald, D. W. (2010). First Otter Civet Cynogale bennettii photographed in Sabangau Peat-swamp Forest, Indonesian Borneo. Small Carnivore Conservation 42: 25–26.
- Kanchanasakha, B. (1998). Carnivores of Mainland South East Asia. WWF, Bangkok. ISBN 974-89438-2-8
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