Viverra zibetha, also known as the Indian civet, is found from Indochina to southern China. It is also found in Nepal, Bangladesh, the Malay Peninsula, Hainan, and Vietnam.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Indian civets have large bodies that are gray or brown in color. Body length is about 34 inches with a tail length of 13 inches. They have black spots on the body as well as black and white stripes on the sides of the neck. In most cases there are two white stripes and three black stripes. The tail has a number of black rings around it. Limbs are black and the forefeet contain lobes of skin on the third and fourth digit that protect the retractile claws. Males are slightly larger than females.
Range mass: 5 to 11 kg.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger
Habitat and Ecology
Its diet consists of a wide range of animals, including fish, birds, lizards, frogs, insects, scorpions (and other arthropods) and crabs, as well as poultry and garbage (Lekagul and McNeely 1977).
In Lao PDR, this species is found in tall forest, both evergreen and deciduous, and adjacent degraded areas, over at least 200 to 1000 m, with few recent records from below 400 m (Duckworth et al. 1999); however, there are many records from other countries, e.g. Myanmar, below this altitude (Than Zaw et al. 2008). They are believed to breed throughout the year, with two litters per year, and two to four young per litter (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Breeding and resting dens are usually holes in the ground which were originally dug by other species. 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).
Like Viverricula and Civettictis, but to a generally much lesser extent, this civet has been used as a source of civetone, an oil-like substance secreted by the perineal gland used by the animal for territorial marking.
Viverra zibetha live in grasslands, scrub, and densely forested areas. They are commonly found near human habitats. They live in burrows that have been dug by other animals.
Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest
Civets are carnivorous. They prey on birds, frogs, snakes, small mammals, chickens, and hens. They also eat fruit, roots, eggs, and have been recorded eating fish and crabs.
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 20.0 years.
Status: captivity: 15.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Females are polyestrous, breeding throughout the year. They have two litters per year and each litter can have up to four young. They are born in a hole in the ground or in very dense vegetation. Young can open their eyes in ten days and begin being weaned at one month of age. Weight at birth is less than 100g and doubles in 12 days. At the end of one month, the birth weight has increased four fold. The females raise the young on their own.
Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual
Average number of offspring: 3.
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2008Near Threatened (NT)
- 1996Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
The Ahmedabad Zoo in India has a small population of Indian civets. They were formerly kept in order to collect their glandular secretions.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Viverra zibetha prey upon domestic animals, such as chickens, placing them in conflict with farmers.
Viverra zibetha secrete a substance called civet. It is used commercially to produce perfumes. They may also influence forest structure and re-growth by aiding in seed dispersal.
Large Indian civet
The large Indian civet (Viverra zibetha) is a civet native to South and Southeast Asia. It is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN since 2008, mainly because of trapping-driven declines in heavily hunted and fragmented areas, notably in China, and the heavy trade as wild meat.
Large Indian civets are generally grizzled greyish brown, with white and black bars along the neck, a white muzzle, and usually two white stripes and three black stripes on the tail. The hair on the back is longer. The claws are retractable, and there is hair in between the paw pads. They are almost as big as a binturong and an African civet, with a head-and-body length ranging from 50 to 95 cm (20 to 37 in) and 38 to 59 cm (15 to 23 in) long tail. The hind foot measures 9 to 14.5 cm (3.5 to 5.7 in). Their weight ranges from 3.4 to 9.2 kg (7.5 to 20.3 lb).
Distribution and habitat
Distribution of subspecies
- V. z. zibetha (Linnaeus, 1758) — ranges from Nepal eastwards to Assam;
- V. z. ashtoni (Swinhoe, 1864) — inhabits China;
- V. z. picta (Wroughton, 1915) — ranges from Assam and northern Myanmar to Indochina;
- V. z. pruinosa (Wroughton, 1917) — inhabits Tenasserim and Peninsular Malaysia;
- V. z. hainana (Wang and Xu, 1983)
Six subspecies have been proposed but a taxonomic revision is needed. The validity of the species Viverra tainguensis described in 1997 by Sokolov, Rozhnov and Pham Chong from Tainguen Plateau in Gialai Province in Vietnam has been seriously questioned, and it is now generally considered a synonym of V. zibetha.
Ecology and behaviour
Large Indian civets are solitary and nocturnal. They spend most of their time on the ground, and are agile climbers. During the day, they sleep in burrows that have been dug and abandoned by other animals. They are territorial and mark their territories with excretions from their anal glands. Their territory ranges from 1.7 to 5.4 km2 (0.66 to 2.08 sq mi).
Females breed at any time of the year, and generally have two litters a year. A litter usually consists of four young. They are born in a hole in the ground or in dense vegetation. They open their eyes at 10 days and are weaned at one month of age.
Viverra zibetha is totally protected in Malaysia under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and listed on Category II of the China Wildlife Protection Law. China listed it as ‘Endangered’ under criteria A2acd, and it is a class II protected State species (due to trapping for food and scent glands). It is protected in Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. It is found in several protected areas throughout its range. The population of India is listed on CITES Appendix III.
In Hong Kong, it is a protected species under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170, though it has not been recorded in a natural state in Hong Kong since the 1970s, and is considered extirpated.
In Assamese it is called Gendera or Johamol.
In Bengali it is called Baghdas, Bham or Bham Biral and Gandho Gokul or Khatas. Biral= cat, Gandho= smell or scent. Gokul= the place of Lord Krishna (Govinda). In Bengal there is a delicate variety of sweet and pleasant smelling rice known as Govindabhog rice (the rice which is offered to Lord Govinda). The secretion from prene gland of civet cat smells like that variety of rice, so it is often called as "Gandho Gokul".
In Malay language it is called Musang kasturi (musang = fox, kasturi = musk), due to its musky smell.
- Duckworth, J. W., Wozencraft, C., Wang Yin-xiang, Kanchanasaka, B., Long, B. (2008). "Viverra zibetha". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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- Shek, C. T. (2006). A Field Guide to the Terrestrial Mammals of Hong Kong. Friends of the Country Parks / Cosmos Books, Hong Kong. 403 pp. ISBN 978-988-211-331-2. Page 281