Common Palm Civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) are widely distributed across South and Southeast Asia. There are scattered records from Sulawesi, the Moluccas, Timor, and the Aru Islands and they may be present in Papua New Guinea. They were introduced to Japan in the late 1800s.
This is a small civet with a grayish or rusty body, brown or black spots and stripes, a dark mask, and a long tail. The head and body are 42 to 71 cm long with a tail of 33 to 66 cm; weight is 2 to 5 kg. The body size of individuals on islands, notably Borneo, is smaller than on the mainland. The head pattern is highly variable, but generally consists of a dark mask with pale patches below the eyes, on the forehead, and at the bases of the ears.
Common Palm Civets occur in a range of habitats up to 2400 m, including evergreen and deciduous forests (both primary and secondary), plantations, and around human dwellings and settlements. They are mainly frugivorous, but also eat small vertebrates and invertebrates. They are solitary, nocturnal, and largely arboreal, spending the day in trees--and sometimes in buildings. Common Palm Civets deposit their scat, the contents of which can have commercial value as the source of "civet coffee", on the ground and on tree branches.
Breeding seems to occur throughout the year, with a litter size of two to five young. In captivity, gestation is 61 to 63 days. Newborns weigh 69 to 102 g and are born with their eyes closed. They reach sexual maturity at 11 to 12 months.
Although this species is widespread and generally common, population density may be lower in secodary forest than in primary forest. Common Palm Civets are often considered pests by fruit farmers and killed. They are also trapped and traded for meat and are sometimes kept as pets and used as rat catchers (which may explain their introduction to some areas). The subspecies (sometimes considered a distinct species) on the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia may be under threat due to commercial logging.
(Jennings and Veron 2009 and references therein)
Asian palm civets (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) are native to regions within and around Asia, ranging as far east as the Philippines and as far west as Kashmir. They are widespread but are mostly found in southern China, northern Himalayas, southern India, and islands in the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, and the Philippine Sea. Populations of the Asian palm civet are seen in Sumatra, Bhutan, Java, Borneo, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Nepal, Singapore, and the Sundas Islands.
Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native ); oriental (Native )
It was also introduced to Japan in the late 1800s, and still persists there today (S. Roy in litt. 2006). It has also been recorded from the islands of Bawean (Indonesia), Con Son (Viet Nam), Koh Samui (Thailand), Koh yao (Thailand), Samar (Philippines), and Telebon (Thailand) (Meiri, 2005), in addition to many others (Pocock 1939). Paradoxurus lignicolor (included in Paradoxurus hermaphroditus by Wilson and Reeder 2005) was recorded by Abegg (2003) on Siberut of the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia.
In addition it has been found on the Philippine islands of Biliran, Maripipi (Rickart et al. 1993) Mindoro, Catanduanes (Heaney et al. 1991), Cebu, Masbate, Polillo, Ilin, Samar, Dumaran and Panay (Timm and Birney 1980; Lastimosa pers. comm.).
Asian palm civets are frequently called “weasel cats” due to their similar appearance to both animals. Asian palm civets are small, weighing only about three kilograms with an average body length of 50 centimeters, and a tail that is 48 centimeters long. They have elongated bodies with short legs, and a tail that is almost as long as their head and body combined. Their nose is pointed and protrudes from their small face. They have faces mostly like cats, but palm civets have longer and flatter skulls. Relative to their head, palm civets have large dark eyes and large pointed ears. The coat of Asian palm civets are short, coarse, and are usually black or gray with black-tipped guard hairs all over. Like racoons, palm civets faces are banded and have a white patch of fur below and above the eyes and on each side of the nose. They can be recognized by the dark stripes down their back and the three rows of black spots freckled on each side of their body and covering their legs. However, these markings are less prominent in juveniles. Unlike other civets, Asian palm civets tails do not have black rings. Rather, they are just tipped black on the very end. Another distinguishing factor that their neck hair grows backwards, whereas other members of the civet family have forward growing neck hair. Palm civets have more specialized teeth for an omnivorous diet than other civets that mostly eat meat. Asian palm civets have teeth that are weaker and pointed, and the carnassials, that are apt for slicing meat, are less developed. Having plantigrade feet, Asian palm civets walk like bears and racoons, with their entire sole on the ground. They have naked soles, their claws are semi-retractile, and their third and fourth toes are partly fused. All these features make them excellent climbers and help them as they hunt. Finally, both males and females of this species have a perineal scent gland under their tail, resembling testicles; the feature that gave them their scientific name. This gland is located within a double-pocket pouch under the skin of the abdomen, and is used to spray in defense, to mark territory, and for communication with others of the species.
Range mass: 1300 to 5000 g.
Average mass: 3000 g.
Range length: 43 to 71 cm.
Average length: 54 cm.
Average basal metabolic rate: 5.53 cm3.O2/g/hr.
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average basal metabolic rate: 5.534 W.
Asian palm civets can live in a variety of habitats. They naturally live in temperate and tropical forests, but in developed areas they are also found in parks, suburban gardens, plantations, and fruit orchards. Where these civets choose to live depends mostly on the availability of food and presence of areas they can rest in, like tree hollows, rock crevices, or dense foliage. Asian palm civets are arboreal so they spend most of their time in fruit trees and fig trees, preferring the tallest trees with very dense canopies and vines for seclusion and protection. Their elevation range extends up to about 2,000 feet.
Range elevation: 0 to 2,234 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural
Habitat and Ecology
In the Philippines the species has been recorded in agricultural (including coffee plantations) and forested areas from sea level up to at least 2,400 m asl (Balete and Heaney in press, Heaney et al. 1991 in press, Hoogstraal 1951, Rabor 1986, Thomas 1898) and in montane and mossy forest from 925-2150 m asl in Balbalasang, Kalinga Province (Heaney et al.
In Lao PDR, this species has been found in all habitats surveyed, from Mekong lowlands to montane areas, evergreen to deciduous forest to scrub (Duckworth et al. 1999). This species is adapted for forest living, yet it tolerates living in areas near humans; sleeping in barns, drains, or roofs during the day, and coming out at night to catch rats or forage for mango, coffee, pineapples, melons, and bananas, it also eats insects and mollusks (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). In Myanmar, it was recorded in mixed deciduous forest and a wide range of evergreen forest-dominated sites (Su Su, 2005, than Zaw et al. in press). This species was recorded in primary lowland rainforest in Tawau Hills National Park in Borneo by Wells et al. (2005). All Bornean civets (except Diplogale hosei) have been recorded in disturbed forest areas, though abundance declines in this habitat (Heydon and Bulloh, 1996; Colon, 2002; pers. comm.). It was recorded in disturbed habitat in Malaysia by Ratnam et al. (1995). It was recorded in secondary forest, that was logged in the 1970s, and which surrounds a palm estate, in Malaysia in 2000-01 by Azlan (2003). This species is largely arboreal (Payne et al. 1985), crepuscular (Azlan, 2005) and nocturnal (e.g. Duckworth 1997). There is interesting variation across its mainland range in habitat use. In Lao PDR it occurs commonly deep within old-growth evergreen and semi-evergreen forest (Duckworth 1997) but it seems to avoid such habitat in the Western Ghats (Mudappa in press).
Asian palm civets are sometimes compared to raccoons in North America, in that they fill a similar niche. They are opportunistic and adaptable, eating whatever is available; however, they are mostly frugivorous, preferring berries and pulpy fruits over anything else. Palm civets of Java are said to feed on over 35 different species of trees, shrubs, and creepers. Asian palm civets climb fruit trees to get their food. Their favorite trees to feed from are fig trees and palm trees, hence the origin of one of its common names. Palm civets are noted for their ability to pick the best and ripest fruit, leaving the others for later. They are particularly fond of chiku, mangoes, bananas, rambutan, and papayas. Other than fruits, Asian palm civet are very fond of the sap from the flowers of sugar palm trees (Arenga pinnata) that are found throughout their natural range. This sap has been used by the indigenous people of the areas to make sweet liquor by fermenting the sugar sap, which is called "toddy", giving them their other common name, the toddy cat. They also drink the nectar of silk cotton trees (Ceiba petandra) and the stems of the apocynaceae tree. Since Asian palm civets are foragers, they are frequently found in urban gardens, plantations, and orchards looking for food. In addition to their normal diet of fruit, civets also eat rats, shrews, mice, birds, insects, worms, seeds, eggs, reptiles, snails, scorpions, and more.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; nectar; flowers; sap or other plant fluids
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates, Eats eggs, Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods, Molluscivore , Vermivore); herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore , Granivore , Nectarivore ); omnivore
Asian palm civet eat the seeds of many trees in its area, like palm trees (Pinanga kuhlii and Pinanga zavana). They are prime contributors to the dispersal of these seeds, since they tend to pass them in their feces several hundred meters from where the seeds were consumed. This also encourages the seeds to germinate, which helps forests regenerate.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
The arboreal and nocturnal characteristics of palm civets are thought to have developed as a mechanism to avoid predators. They are most commonly hunted by large cats, like tigers and leopards, and reptiles, like large snakes and crocodiles.
- tigers (Panthera tigris)
- leopards (Panthera pardus)
- snakes (Reptilia)
- crocodiles (Crocodylidae)
Life History and Behavior
Civets are typically silent, but can make a noise that sounds similar to meows. They also snarl, hiss, and spit when they are alarmed or harassed. Instead of using vocalizations, the Asian palm civets use their scent gland as their primary means of communication. They mark their ranges by dragging their anal glands on the ground. Asian palm civets rarely communicate vocally other than when they are agitated or being attacked. They generally rely on scent-markings and olfactory responses to communicate. They are able to secrete self-identifying odors from their perineal gland, urine, feces, and skin glands. They mark substrates predominately by dragging their perineal gland on top of them, but they also rub their ear-neck region and heels, and drag their anus. Males mark objects with their scent a lot more frequently than females of the species. This is probably because males are more territorial and dominant than females. Scents left from the dragging the perineal gland remain in the environment longer than any other scent Asian palm civets produce and are used as a long-term source of information about that animal.
Communication Channels: chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Asian palm civets typically live anywhere from 15 to 20 years. They live longer in captivity, living for as long as 24 years and 5 months.
Status: wild: 15 to 22 years.
Status: wild: 20 years.
Status: captivity: 15 to 24.5 years.
Status: captivity: 22.4 years.
Status: wild: 15 to 20 years.
Status: captivity: 15 to 25 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Asian palm civets are nocturnal and secretive so their reproductive behavior has mostly been observed in a zoo setting and their mating system is unknown. It is known that they are viviparous and typically gives birth in tree hollows. Despite being generally solitary, Asian palm civets come together in the same resting trees to continuously mate for a period of one to fifteen days.
Asian palm civets find mates using scent markings from their anal glands, indicating each civets age, sex, receptivity, kin relationship, and if they are familiar. Asian palm civets are sexually receptive all year with an average estrous cycle of about 82 days. They typically have up to two litters per year with kittens being born from October to December. They go into resting trees to mate, give birth, and take care of young, spending the whole mating period in their tree of choice. Couples tend to choose trees for this period in close proximity to other members of their group. After a gestation period of two months, Asian palm civets give birth to two to five kittens in tree hollows or boulder crevices for secrecy and protection. Kittens are born with their eyes closed and fur covering their bodies. Palm civet babies are very small, weighing only about 80 grams at birth. At 11 days, their eyes open and by two months old are weaned. After about three months, these civets are considered full grown, but they are not sexually mature until they are about one year old.
Breeding interval: Asian palm civets breed year round.
Breeding season: Mating occurs year round in Asian palm civets.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 5.
Average number of offspring: 3.
Average gestation period: 60 days.
Average weaning age: 2 months.
Average time to independence: 3 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 11 to 12 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 9 to 11 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 88.65 g.
Average gestation period: 60 days.
Average number of offspring: 3.4.
Asian palm civets are classified as altrical, meaning the young need care from their parents after birth. Little is known about parental investment in Asian palm civets since the young do not leave the tree hollows that they are born in until after they are weaned. However, it is thought that females are responsible for care of the young, providing milk for nourishment from their mammary glands, as well as being in charge of weaning them.
Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care
Asian palm civets are not considered to be in danger of extinction, but in their native areas laws protect them, like Malaysia and Sichuan, China. They are also protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and they are listed as vulnerable under China's red list for excessive hunting. According to the IUCN, Asian palm civets are of little concern because they have a wide distribution, large populations, are highly adaptable, and have a stable population trend. Even though palm civets are not currently in danger, their habitats are getting increasingly smaller due to over-logging and clearing of land for palm oil plantations. Some governments have started monitoring the rate of logging and requiring developers to get permits or licenses to do so. There also has been an effort to replant some of the lost forests.
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
The most common problem that Asian palm civets cause humans is raiding of plantations and orchards for their fruits. Owners of these lands retaliate by killing them. Also, civets that live in roofs or in barns make a lot of noises at night, making people think of them as a nuisance.
Negative Impacts: crop pest
One of the earliest uses that humans have used Asian palm civets for was their sweet-smelling musk. In the past it was used to treat such things as scabies, but today it is only used for perfume. To get civet oil, the scent gland must be scraped out with a special tool, which is a difficult task and if not done properly is painful for the civet. The musk can also be produced when the civet is harassed. Often, this industry is supported by trappers that go into the wild and capture wild civets to obtain their oil. People also use civets as rodent catchers, since they eat rats and mice.
Asian palm civets are best known for aiding in the production of an expensive coffee, Kopi luwak, by passing coffee cherries through their digestive tract. As the cherries go through palm civets digestive tracts, they get a unique “gamy” flavor and people extract these pits from the civet feces. This coffee is in high demand because of civets tendencies to only pick the ripest coffee cherries. Kopi luwak is the most expensive coffee in the world, selling for over one hundred dollars a pound.
Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; controls pest population
Asian palm civet
The Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), also called toddy cat, is a small member of the Viverridae family native to South and Southeast Asia. In 2008, the IUCN classified the species as Least Concern as it is tolerant of a broad range of habitats. It is widely distributed with large populations that in 2008 were thought unlikely to be declining. In 2012, it was suggested that recent increases in capturing the animals for Kopi Luwak production may constitute a significant threat to wild civet populations.
The Asian palm civet is a small, mottled gray and black viverrid weighing 2 to 5 kg (4.4 to 11.0 lb). It has a body length of about 53 cm (21 in) with a 48 cm (19 in) long tail. Its long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually greyish in color. There is a white mask across the forehead, a small white patch under each eye, a white spot on each side of the nostrils, and a narrow dark line between the eyes. The muzzle, ears, lower legs, and distal half of the tail are black, with three rows of black markings on the body. The tail is without rings, unlike in similar civet species. Anal scent glands emit a nauseating secretion as a chemical defense when threatened or upset. Despite its species name hermaphroditus, the civets (like all other mammals) have two distinct sexes and are not hermaphrodites.
Distribution and habitat
Asian palm civets are native to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Philippines and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bawean and Siberut. They were introduced to Irian Jaya, the Lesser Sunda Islands, Maluku, Sulawesi and Japan. In Papua New Guinea, their presence is uncertain.
They also inhabit parks and suburban gardens with mature fruit trees, fig trees and undisturbed vegetation. Their sharp claws allow them to climb trees and house gutters. In most parts of Sri Lanka, palm civets are considered a nuisance since they litter in ceilings and attics of common households, and make loud noises fighting and moving about at night.
Ecology and behaviour
Asian palm civets are believed to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating. They are both terrestrial and arboreal, showing nocturnal activity patterns with peaks between late evening until after midnight. They are usually active between 6:00 pm and 4:00 am, being less active during nights when the moon is brightest.
Scent marking behaviour and olfactory response to various excretions such as secretion of the perineal gland, urine and feces differs in males and females. Scent marking by dragging the perineal gland and leaving the secretion on the substrate was most commonly observed in animals of both sexes. The olfactory response varied by duration and depended both on the sex and excretion type. The palm civet can distinguish animal species, sex, and familiar/unfamiliar individuals by the odor of the perineal gland secretion.
Feeding and diet
Asian palm civets are omnivores utilizing fruits such as berries and pulpy fruits as a major food source, and thus help to maintain tropical forest ecosystems via seed dispersal. They eat chiku, mango, rambutan and coffee, but also small mammals and insects. Ecologically, they fill a similar niche in Asia as common raccoons in North America. They play an important role in the natural regeneration of Pinanga kuhlii and P. zavana palms at Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park. They also feed on palm flower sap, which when fermented becomes toddy, a sweet liquor. Because of this habit they are called the toddy cat.
Due to their solitary and nocturnal habits, little is known about the reproductive processes and behaviour of civets. In March 2010, a pair of palm civets was observed when attempting to mate. The pair copulated on the tree branch for about five minutes. During that period the male mounted the female 4–5 times. After each mounting the pair separated for few moments and repeated the same procedure. After completion of mating, the pair frolicked around for some time, moving from branch to branch on the tree. The animals separated after about six minutes and moved off to different branches and rested there.
In some parts of its range Asian palm civets are hunted for bush meat and the pet trade. In southern China it is extensively hunted and trapped. Dead individuals were found with local tribes in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and Agra, Uttar Pradesh in India between 1998 and 2003, where it is killed for its meat. The oil extracted from small pieces of the meat kept in linseed oil in a closed earthen pot and regularly sunned is used indigenously as a cure for scabies.
Kopi Luwak is coffee prepared using coffee beans that have been subjected to ingestion and fermentation in the gastrointestinal tract of the Asian palm civet, which is called luwak in Indonesia. Caffeine content in both Arabica and Robusta luwak coffee is lower than in unfermented coffee. Large deformation mechanical rheology testing revealed that civet coffee beans are harder and more brittle in nature than their control counterparts indicating that digestive juices enter into the beans and modify the micro-structural properties of these beans. Proteolytic enzymes cause substantial breakdown of storage proteins.
Kopi Luwak is traditionally made from the faeces of wild civets, however, due to it becoming a trendy drink, civets are being increasingly captured from the wild and fed coffee beans to mass-produce this blend. Many of these civets are housed in battery cage systems which have been criticised on animal welfare grounds. The impact of the demand for this fashionable coffee on wild civet populations is yet unknown but may constitute a significant threat. In Indonesia, the demand for Asian palm civets appears to be in violation of the quota set for pets.
Since Peter Simon Pallas's first description published in 1777, a significant number of subspecies have been described between 1820 and 1992. They are listed according to the year of first description:
- P. h. hermaphroditus (Pallas, 1777) — ranges in Sri Lanka and southern India as far north as the Narbada River;
- P. h. bondar (Desmarest, 1820) — was described from Bengal and Nepal Terai;
- P. h. musanga (Raffles, 1821)
- P. h. javanica (Horsfield, 1824)
- P. h. pallasii (Gray, 1832) — was described from the hills of Nepal, and ranges from Nepal, Sikkim, Assam to upper Myanmar;
- P. h. philippinensis (Jourdan, 1837)
- P. h. setosus (Jacquinot and Pucheran, 1853)
- P. h. nictitans (Taylor, 1891) — was described from Odisha;
- P. h. lignicolor (Miller, 1903)
- P. h. minor (Bonhote, 1903)
- P. h. canescens (Lyon, 1907)
- P. h. milleri (Kloss, 1908)
- P. h. kangeanus (Thomas, 1910)
- P. h. sumbanus (Schwarz, 1910)
- P. h. exitus (Schwarz, 1911)
- P. h. cochinensis (Schwarz, 1911)
- P. h. canus (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. pallens (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. parvus (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. pugnax (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. pulcher (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. sacer (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. senex (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. simplex (Miller, 1913)
- P. h. enganus (Lyon, 1916)
- P. h. laotum (Gyldenstolpe, 1917) — was described from Chieng Hai in north-western Thailand, and ranges from Myanmar to Indochina and Hainan;
- P. h. balicus (Sody, 1933)
- P. h. scindiae (Pocock, 1934) — was described from Gwalior, and ranges in central India;
- P. h. vellerosus (Pocock, 1934) — was described from Kashmir;
- P. h. dongfangensis (Corbet and Hill, 1992)
The taxonomic status of these subspecies has not yet been evaluated.
- Musang or Alamid in the Philippines;
- Musang in Malaysia and in Indonesia, in latter also Luwak;
- Motit,Amunin in the Gran Cordillera Central mountain range of northern Philippines;
- Punugu Pilli in southwest Andhra Pradesh, South Central India;
- Gondhogokul,Khatash,Vham and other many names in Bengali;
- Marapatti or "മരപ്പട്ടി", translates as 'tree-dog' or 'wood-dog', in the indigenous language of Malayalam in the state of Kerala in southern India;
- Maranai in Tamil, also meaning 'tree-dog' or 'wood-dog';
- Vaniyar ᦠᦲᧃ (IPA: [ɡuj] in Gujarat state;
- " Kandechor" कांदेचोर(meaning 'onion stealer') in Konkan, Maharashtra, India.
- Uguduwa in Sinhala of Sri Lanka;
- Cầy vòi hương in Vietnamese;
- PuLi.ngaa maajjar in Konkani Language;
- Ii Hěn อีเห็น (IPA: [ʔii.hěn]) in Thailand;
- Hěn ເຫັນ (IPA: [hěn])or Ngěn ເຫງັນ (IPA: [ŋěn]) in Laos;
- Hěn ႁဵၼ် (IPA: [hěn]) in Shan of the Shan states, Myanmar;
- Hǐn ᦠᦲᧃ (IPA: [hín]) in Tai Lü of Xishuangbanna, Yunnan, China.
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