Masked Civet (Paguma larvata)

Civets are also known as genets. They look like a cross between a raccoon, a skunk, and a weasel; but, they are actually more closely related to felines.

Civets are considered to be part of the Feliform suborder. This group is comprised of those considered to be cat-like animals.


Diet

Masked-civets are considered carnivores and most of their diet consists mainly of small animals such as insects, rodents, lizards, frogs, and snakes. Like many carnivores, they will also eat fruit when it is available. They hunt mostly at night and are excellent tree climbers.


Defenses

The masked civet has sharp teeth and capable claws to capture prey. For defense, it prefers to spray a stinky secretion from an anal gland. This is not unlike the skunk that uses a similar mechanism for defense. The civet's stink, however, can last up to 3-months as compared to the skunk which lasts between 14-21 days.


Habitat

The masked palm civet can be found in northern parts of India, in particular the eastern mountainous regions. They also can be found in the south (Vietnam) and east areas of Asia (China).


Exploitation

Civets are needlessly killed for food, fur, coffee, and perfume. The coffee is made from feeding them a diet of coffee berries. They excrete the remaining seeds and the seeds are dried or toasted and ground into coffee grains. It is known as Kopi Luwak or civet coffee and is considered one of the most expensive coffees in the world. As mentioned earlier, the civet has anal scent glands that have an odor that can persist for up to 3-months. This was recognized in the '70s and many products were bound to these secretions to create long-lasting perfumes. It is considered illegal now in many countries but it is still sold where countries allow it. In particular, various civet extracts can be found primarily online.


It is doubtful that zoologists approve of this brand.

Disease

The exploitation of civets is what led to the 2003 SARS epidemic. SARS, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is another coronavirus (SARS-Cov) believed to have come from the exploitation of civets in China. The Genetic analysis of the virus was a match for wild and captive civets in the region of Guangdong, China. Bats, of course, appear to be the reservoir of these coronavirus strains; however, further analysis revealed that enough mutations occurred after transmission from bats that the SARS virus was endemic to certain civet populations. Over 8000 people became infected with 774 deaths. This should be another dreadful reminder of the cost to human lives due to animal exploitation. The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic was yet another example of the costs of exploiting wild animals. Ⓥ


Conservation Status

All civet populations are in decline. Many masked civets (used for Industry) are captively bred; and thus, wild populations are in decline but they are not yet endangered.


Video


Note: Asian Civets are often confused with African civets when discussing the SARS epidemic. SARS did not arise from African civets which look like the one below. Notice that they are much larger and hyena-looking.



I hope you found this animal cousin interesting and you learned something new.


Thank you for reading.


Please consider your impacts on our beautiful animal cousins. They dream too. ;-) Ⓥ Peace!

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