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.
Recent records of Otter Civet from Borneo are from Sarawak (e.g., Belden et al. 2007), Sabah (Wilting et al. 2010, A.J. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2014) and Central Kalimantan (Cheyne et al. 2010). There are also recent records from east-central Sumatra (ZSL Indonesia Programme pers. comm. 2014). As of late 2014, only two recent records were traced from the Thai-Malay peninsula, both from the Endau-Rompin Landscape, Johor, Malaysia: once each in 2012 and 2013 (M. Gumal pers. comm. 2014).
Otter Civet has been recorded at 1,370 m a.s.l. in Bario, Sarawak, but the majority of records are from lowland forest, down to sea-level (Veron et al. 2006, Cheyne et al. in prep.).
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.
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..
Habitat and Ecology
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
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.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
A map of the area of Otter Civet occupancy for Borneo predicted an area of potentially occupied habitat of 261,614 km. Applying the same reasoning regarding habitat suitability, an additional 44,094 km and 34,999 km could plausibly be available in Sumatra and the Thai-Malay peninsula, respectively. Despite this relatively large area of suitable habitat, Otter Civet is rarely recorded by camera-trap (or other survey method) in the vast majority of its range, even in areas assumed to be good habitat, for example, the peat swamp forests of Sabangau National Park (Cheyne et al. 2010) or Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (A.J. Hearn, J. Ross and D.W. Macdonald pers. comm. 2014). A review of small carnivore records from Thailand did not trace any camera-trap records of Otter Civet and no records from any method since 1998; it might be on the verge of national extinction (Chutipong et al. 2014). Records are also infrequent from Peninsular Malaysia (Veron et al. 2006), with apparently only two recordssince 1990 (M. Gumal pers comm. 2014).As of late 2014, there are no records from Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008,Than Zaw pers. comm. 2014). It has been recorded more frequently in at least two areas of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, both logged lowland forest, with data from one of these areas indicating a breeding population (Wilting et al. 2010, A.J. Hearn and J. Rosspers comm. 2014). However, it is unclear why these two surveys resulted in comparatively high detection rates; surveys in adjacent forest reserves using similar techniques resulted in few records, suggesting that these apparent higher abundances are very localised. Records from Sumatra are also few, although in some areas detections are more frequent than in its mainland range (ZSL Indonesia Programme pers. comm. 2014).
Although Otter Civet seems able to tolerate some forms of habitat disturbance such as logging, it has never been recorded in plantations and its tolerance to each form of habitat disturbance remains unknown. The paucity of records across most of its range, despite intensive and/or long-term camera-trapping in some areas, suggests that it probably exists at very low densities range-wide, although this might vary much. Across its range, average densities might be as low as 1-2 individuals per 100 km (inferred from very low detection rates in most areas), especially becauseit is plausible that the distribution is very patchy with large areas where Otter Civet is no longer present, despite suitable habitat and other areas where densities are higher locally. The number of mature individuals is therefore plausibly fewer than 2,500 (equivalent to a total population of around 3,800) indicating (in combination with the suspected decline rate) a categorisation as Endangered under C1. The large uncertainty in this assessment means Vulnerable is similarly plausible: continuation of the 2008Endangeredlisting is explicitly precautionary. In some areas, the lack of camera-trap records might reflect inappropriate camera-trap placement; the overall few detections might reflect the rarity of surveys in prime Otter Civet habitat. Should future survey results challenge the key assumptions urging a cautious approach (near-restriction to gentle terrain, predominantly lowland; high sensitivity to conversion, degradation and fragmentation of forested wetlands, to pollution and to hunting; and a generally low density with only highly localised higher densities) the Red List categorisation would need revising. It is likely that it would then meet the criteria for Vulnerable under A2 and A3 (which it comfortably meets at present based on coarse habitat loss rates) and C1.
- Endangered (EN)
- 1996Endangered (EN)
- 1994Endangered (E)
- 1990Insufficiently Known (K)
- 1988Insufficiently Known (K)
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
This species has been detected in a fair number of protected areas throughout its range, including Bukit Sarang Conservation Area, Sarawak (Belden et al. 2007), Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand, in 1998 (Anon. 1998), Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra (Veron et al. 2006), Sembilang National Park, Sumatra (ZSL Indonesia Programme pers. comm. 2014), Danau Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan (Jeanes and Meijaard 2000), Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah (A.J. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2014) and Sabangau National Park, Central Kalimantan (Cheyne et al. 2010)
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.
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- 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.
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- 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