African linsangs (Poiana richardsonii) are endemic to West Africa from Sierra Leone to northern Congo. They are also found on Bioko Island (formerly known as the island of Fernando Póo).
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
African linsangs are a relatively small member of the family Viverridae. The average head and body length is between 33 and 38 cm. The length of the tail is generally between 35 and 40 cm. Poiana richardsonii is approximately 15 to 18 cm tall at the shoulder, and usually weighs between 500 and 700 g. There are no reported differences in the size between males and females. African linsangs have slender bodies with medium-sized, rounded, triangular ears and a pointed muzzle.
Pelage varies from a pale-yellow to a brownish-grey or orange-brown on the dorsal side of the body. The ventral side of the body is white to cream-colored. The dorsal side has rounded-to-oval spots that are dark brown to black. These spots occur in irregular rows of 4 to 5 on each side of the body. The spots along the shoulders and back often merge into stripes. Occasionally, individuals have a thin, black stripe running from the back of the nose to the root of the tail. The long, cylindrical tail has between 10 and 14 black rings that vary in width. The tip of the tail is either black or light colored.
The legs are short, the forelegs being slightly shorter than the hind legs, with the hind legs black on the underside. Poiana richardsonii has hairy soles, except for the pads of their digits. There are 5 toes on both the forefeet and hind feet and the claws are somewhat curved and semi-retractile.
The eyes are of medium size. The canines of P. richardsonii are slender, the premolars are sharp-cusped, and the molars are relatively small. The lower jaw is noted to be weak in this species. Dentition is 3/3-1/1-4/4-1/2.
Poiana richardsonii is distinguishable from Asiatic linsangs, Priondon, in that the spots of Asiatic linsangs are smaller and do not run into bands or stripes except in the head and shoulder region. African linsangs also have a perineal gland that is lacking in Asiatic linsangs. African linsangs are different from genets, Genetta, in that the former are missing the last upper molar, whereas genets still have this tooth.
Range mass: 500 to 700 g.
Range length: 68 to 78 cm.
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Found in the forests of Zaire, P. richardsonii is also native to the woodlands of West Africa between Gabon and Sierra Leone. Poiana richardsonii is mostly documented inhabiting the rainforest regions of these areas. In the Irangi rainforest, in eastern Zaire, African linsangs have been located at an altitude of about 950 m. In the Makokou rainforest, in northeast Gabon, they have been found between altitudes of 300 and 500 m.
Range elevation: 300 to 950 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Habitat and Ecology
African linsangs are omnivorous. They eat a variety of foods including insects, young birds, cola nuts, fruits and other plant material. They are also known to eat small vertebrates, although this is not a major portion of their diet.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; insects
Plant Foods: leaves; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Primary Diet: omnivore
Nothing is currently known about the roles African linsangs play in the ecosystem. As omnivores, they are likely to play some role in structuring plant and prey communities. As possible prey items themselves, these animals may contribute to the food base of other species.
Humans, Homo sapiens, are the only known predators of P. richardsonii. They are usually hunted for the spotted coat and infrequently hunted for bushmeat. Nothing is currently known about the non-human predators of P. richardsonii, although given their size, they could be prey to nocturnal predators like owls, larger carnivores, and large snakes.
- Homo sapiens
Life History and Behavior
Communication of African linsangs has not been studied. Since anal glands are present in this species it is presumed they are used for olfactory communication. In genets, Genetta, the anal glands emit a fluid that has a musty smell. Viverrids, Viverridae, typically emit an unpleasant odor from the anal glands as a defense mechanism. Viverrids are known to use some vocalizations and also have really good eyesight. Tactile communication undoubtedly occurs between individuals nesting together, between mates, and between mothers and their offspring.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of P. richardsonii in the wild is not known, but one individual lived in captivity for 5 years and 4 months. Human activities such as logging, farming, mining and hunting have limited the lifespan of P. richarsonii and caused a rapid decline in the natural forests of Liberia.
Status: captivity: 5.3 years.
The mating system of P. richardsonii has not been studied.
Little is known about reproduction of African linsangs, except that they can have 1 to 2 litters per year and 2 to 3 young per litter. An individual female was noted lactating in October.
Breeding interval: African linsangs breed 1 to 2 times per year.
Breeding season: The breeding season is unknown.
Range number of offspring: 2 to 3.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Nothing is currently known about the parental care of African linsangs. However, as mammals, we may assume that the female provides her young with milk. Most carnivores are altricial at birth, so it is likely to be the case for this species as well. Carnivore young are typically cared for by the mother in a nest or den of some type until they are able to accompany her while foraging. Poiana richarsonii is probably similar to other members of the order Carnivora in this regard.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)
Poiana richardsonii has always been a rare species, so it is believed to be endangered. There are not enough data, however, to be certain. Currently, IUCN officially lists P. r. liberiensis as data deficient in the Ivory Coast and Liberia. However, there have been consistent sitings from Bioko Island. In 1966, two pelts and three freshly killed carcasses were recovered. In 2000, one individual was photographed multiple times and in 2001, two skins were found hanging in the doorway in a local village. A German mammalogist, Martin Eisentraut, described African linsangs as, "definitely not rare on Fernando Po."
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known negative effects of P. richardsonii on humans.
It is not known if African linsangs are economically important to humans. Natives of Liberia make medicine bags from the skins of P. richardsonii. Bioko's Nigerian Moslem Community is known to use the coat of African linsangs for wallets and wristbands. They are of interest to local villagers because the skins are considered attractive and can be used as ornamentation. African linsangs are not known to have been kept as domestic pets.
Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material
The African linsang is a largely arboreal creature that inhabits dense forests and jungles. It is endemic to Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. They have also been known to live at heights of 950m in Zaire and at 300-500m in North-east Gabon.
Like all linsangs, African linsangs vary in colour, and resemble an elongated cat. They grow to a length of 33–43 cm (13–17 inches) for both sexes, excluding a banded tail that is almost as long as the body. They have slender bodies, relatively narrow heads, elongated muzzles, retractile claws, and dense, close fur. They weigh only 500-700 grams (1–1.5 lbs).
African linsangs are white or cream in color on their ventral side, while the dorsal sides have dark circular marks. Sometimes an individual can have a black thin stripe that runs from the nose to the root of the tail. Its tail holds 10 to 14 rings which differ in measurement. The soles of the linsang's feet are covered with hair.
The African linsang is an omnivore, eating insects and young birds as well as fruits, nuts, and other vegetation. It is thought that they could also take small vertebrates, but these are eaten only if the opportunity arises, as they do not hunt for them. Although its breeding habits are largely unknown, it is thought that it gives birth to two or three young annually or semiannually. When born, the young are altricial.
The African linsang is nocturnal, and generally lives alone or in a pair. They construct arboreal nests 2 meters above the ground with green materials. They only stay in a nest for a short amount of time before moving on to make a new nest. Very rarely, several linsangs will stay in the same nesting place. On average, linsangs in the wild live for about 5.3 years.
There are two other species of linsang, the banded linsang (Prionodon linsang), and the spotted linsang (Prionodon pardicolor). These species belong to the Prionodontidae family and are therefore more closely related to the Felidae than the Viverridae .
The African linsang is considered a species of Least Concern (LR/lc), lowest risk and does not qualify for a more at risk category. Taxa are included in the category because their widespread and abundance on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Its only known predator is man. Larger carnivores, owls and snakes are thought to be some of its non-human predators but none have been observed.
- Wozencraft, W. C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 532–628. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Van Rompaey, H., Gaubert, P. & Hoffmann, M. (2008). Poiana richardsonii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 24 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
- "African linsang - African linsang pictures and facts". TheWebsiteOfEverything. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- "linsang". Encyclopædia Britannica - Online Academic Edition. Retrieved 4 May 2014.
- Whitfield, Philip, ed. (1984). Macmillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia. Macmillan Publishing Company. p. 92. ISBN 0-02-627680-1.
- Gaubert, P., & Veron, G. (2003). "Exhaustive sample set among Viverridae reveals the sister-group of felids: the linsangs as a case of extreme morphological convergence within Feliformia". Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B, 270 270 (1532): 2523–30. doi:10.1098/rspb.2003.2521