The oriental civet, Viverra tangalunga, also known as the Malay civet, is found on the Malay peninsula, and on the islands of Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, the Rhio Archipelago,and the Phillipines. It has been introduced to many other Southeast Asian islands. (Nowak 1983, Kitchener 1993)
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
V. tangalunga measures 585 to 950 mm in head and body length; tail length is 300 to 482 mm. Coloration is composed of black spots on a background of tawny or grayish body color. There are usually three black and two white collars on the sides of the neck and throat. The fur is long and loose, and usually elongated along the spinal area forming a low crest or mane. This mane is marked by a black stripe running from the shoulders to the tail. The tail is also banded with black and white. The feet of the Oriental civet are all black. Viverra have five toes on each foot. On the third and fourth digit of the forefeet are lobes of skin which sheath and protect their retractile claws. The dental formula is I 3/3 C 1/1 PM 3-4/3-4 M 1-2/1-2. (Nowak 1983)
Range mass: 5 to 11 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Habitat and Ecology
Malay civets are solitary, omnivorous, and primarily terrestrial (Kanchanasakha et al. 1998). A wide range of home-ranges for Malay civets have now been documented on Buton Island, Sulawesi (24 89 ha) and Borneo (27283 ha) (MacDonald and Wise 1979; Nozaki et al. 1994; Colon 2002; Jennings et al. 2006). Mean home-range size for adults of both sexes was 110 ha in Sabah, East Malaysia and 70 ha on Buton Island, Sulawesi (Colon 2002; Jennings et al. 2006). Colon (2002) considered that the Malay civet was not territorial in East Malaysia but Jennings et al.(2006) found low intra-sexual overlap on Buton Island. Malay civets are most active at night from 18h00 to 07h00, although Malay civets were more active during the day on Buton Island, Sulawesi than in Sabah, East Malaysia (Colon 2002; Jennings et al. 2006). Day rest sites are situated at ground level and associated with some form of cover such as logs, dense brush pile, or thick herbaceous vegetation (Colon 2002; Jennings et al. 2006).
The species habitat is primary and secondary lowland, montane, and mossy forest from sea level to at least 1,200 m asl (Rabor 1955, Rickart et al. 1993, Heaney et al. in press). It is also found also in agricultural areas and near human settlements in the proximity of forest (Wemmer and Watling, 1986; Nowak, 1999). In a study on home range behaviour of this species on Buton Island, Jennings et al. (2006) found a home range size of 70 ha, with smaller home ranges for females as compared to those found in logged forest on Borneo. It is an adaptable species that seems to thrive in a variety of environmental conditions, including disturbed areas (Jennings et al. 2006). 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 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 ground-living (Medway, 1978) and predominantly crepuscular (Azlan and Gulan Azad, 2005).
Oriental civets live in a wide variety of habitats like forest, brush, and grasslands. They stay in the dense cover by day and come into the open at night. They are mainly terrestrial, although they can climb trees easily if necessary. They have been found in disturbed areas of montane forests near villages.
(Nowak 1983, Kitchener 1993)
Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest
Oriental civets are strong hunters. They will kill small mammals, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will also eat eggs, fruit, and have been observed eating some roots. A similar Viverra species, Viverra zibetha has been found fishing in India. (Nowak 1983)
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 12.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
A female Oriental civet may have one to four young per litter two times per year. The young are born in dense vegetation or in holes in the ground. Their eyes are closed at birth, but they do have hair. Weaning begins at approximately one month. Female viverrids have two or three pairs of abdominal mammae. Male viverrids have a baculum. The lifespan of the Oriental civet is probably around 5-15 years. (Nowak 1983)
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average number of offspring: 2.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern
The species is found in a number of protected areas throughout its range. This species was recorded from Tawau Hills National Park in Borneo in 2003-04 (Wells et al. 2005). This species was recorded from Jerangau Forest Reserve in Peninsular Malaysia in 2000-01 (Azlan, 2003). This species is partially protected in Malaysia under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 (WPA 1972), meaning that anyone found killing this species will be liable to a fine not exceeding three thousand ringgit (Approx. USD 790) or a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years, or both (Azlan, 2003). However, Section 55 of this Act allows farmer to shoot any wild animal that causes damage to their property, as long as reasonable efforts have been made to frighten the animal away, and many civets are conisdered a pest in Peninsular Malaysia, as the prey on small livestock and raid fruit orchards (Azlan, 2003).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Viverrids living near villages occasionally kill poultry.
Viverra tangalunga is one of the sources of Civet. Civet is used commercially in producing perfumes. Trade in live civets for their musk is a source of economy. It has also been used for some medicinal purposes. Some viverrids, including the Oriental civet, may be tamed and kept to extract this musk.
(Nowak 1983, Kitchener 1993)
The Malay civet (Viverra tangalunga), also known as the Malayan civet and Oriental civet, is a viverrid native to the Malay Peninsula and the islands of Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, the Rhio-Lingga Archipelago, and the Philippines. It is listed as "Least Concern" by IUCN as it is a relatively widely distributed, appears to be tolerant of degraded habitats, and occurs in a number of protected areas.
The Malay civet's tail is black above and ringed on the lower side.
Their upperparts are greyish with numerous black spots and about 15 black bands in the tail.
Distribution and habitat
The historical range of the Malay civet includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Singapore. In Malaysia, it is found in Borneo, Banggi Island, Langkawi Island, Penang Island and in Peninsular Malaysia. It is also known from Sumatra and Sulawesi. It was introduced to the Maluku Islands. Museum records indicate that the Malay civet also occurred on the Indonesian islands of Java, Bawal and Telok Pai, and on the Philippine island Leyte. In 2012, an individual was photographed in Singapore.
Malay civets occur in a wide variety of habitats including forests, secondary habitats, cultivated land and the outskirts of villages. They range in elevations of up to 900 m (3,000 ft) on Gunung Madalan in Sabah and 1,100 m (3,600 ft) on Usun Apau and the Kelabit Upland in Sarawak.
Ecology and behaviour
Densities of Malay civets are higher in unlogged than in a logged forests. Fruit comprises a larger proportion of diet in unlogged forest compared to logged forest. With fruit contributing a larger percentage of the diet in unlogged forests, logging may lead to increased competition by other frugivores such as palm civets which may exploit fruit directly on trees unlike the mainly terrestrial Malay civet. Around the Malaysian Bera Lake Malay civets were found in logged forest. Arboreal, frugivorous civets are little affected by logging, whereas terrestrial, carnivorous or insectivorous species might be negatively impacted by logging.
As a ground-living species it is exposed to snaring and other forms of ground-level trapping, and hunting with dogs. The limited survey in areas heavily used by people suggests it is rather well able to persist at general levels of threat. The species is occasionally hunted for food and treated as a pest as it raids poultry.
In Borneo, the Malayan civet is negatively affected by the effects of timber harvesting.
Viverra tangalunga is protected in Malaysia under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) of 1972. However, in many rural areas of Peninsular Malaysia civets are considered a pest because they prey on small livestock and raid fruit orchards. Section 55 of the WPA of 1972 allows farmers to shoot any wild animal that causes damage to their property, as long as reasonable efforts have been made to frighten the animal away.
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