Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)


The Asian palm civet is a small, mottled gray and black viverrid weighing 2 to 5 kg (4.4 to 11 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 defence when threatened or upset. Despite its species name hermaphroditus, the civets (like all other mammals) have two distinct sexes and are not hermaphrodites.

Range Description:

The species has a widespread distribution in Central, South and South Eastern Asia occurring in Borneo (Wells et al. 2005), India (Krishnakumar and Balakrishnan 2003); Lao (Duckworth 1997), Peninsular Malaysia (Azlan 2003; Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004; Laidlaw pers. comm.), Myanmar (Su Su 2005), Siberut Island (Mentawai, Indonesia; Abegg 2003), Philippines (Heaney et al. 1991), Thailand (Austin and Tewes 1999), Bhutan, Cambodia (J.L. Walstone pers. comm.), southern China (including Hainan), Nepal, Singapore (B.P.Y.H. Lee pers. comm.), Sri Lanka , Viet Nam (Roberton 2007); and with scattered records in Sulawesi, Moluccas, and the Aru Islands (New Guinea), probably resulting from introductions (Wozencraft 2005).  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 (Vietnam), 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.).
Countries: Native:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Irian Jaya - Introduced, Jawa, Kalimantan, Lesser Sunda Is. - Introduced, Maluku - Introduced, Sulawesi - Introduced, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak); Myanmar; Nepal; Philippines; Singapore; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vietnam


The population status is poorly known. However, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that across its wide range this is generally one of the most common species of civets, except in southern China were it is extensively hunted/trapped (M. Lau pers. comm. 2006) . It is probably the most common mammalian carnivore on Palawan Island, the Philippines (Esselstyn et al. 2004) and Su Su (2005) found that it was the most common species of small carnivore recorded in Hlawga Wildlife Park in Myanmar, a high degraded and heavily hunted small fragment of forest from which most wild carnivores have been eradicated. In mainland (non-Sundaic) Southeast Asia it occurs commonly at almost any site that is surveyed using suitable methodology, including the most degraded, isolated among human environments, and hunted small sites such as Houay Nhang in Lao PDR and Hlawga in Myanmar (Duckworth 2007, Su Su 2005, Than Zaw et al. in prep., Roberton et al. in prep., R. J. Timmins pers. comm., J. L.Walston pers. comm.).
Population Trend: Stable

Ecology and Behaviour

The Asian palm civet is an omnivore 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. It also feeds on palm flower sap, which when fermented becomes toddy, a sweet liquor. Because of this habit it is called the toddy cat. It plays a role in the germination of the Pinanga kuhlii and P. zavana palm trees. The Asian palm civet is believed to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating. It is both terrestrial and arboreal, showing nocturnal activity patterns with peaks between late evening until after midnight. It is usually active between 6:00 pm and 4:00 am, being less active during nights when the moon is brightest. It performs scent marking using anal glands, urine, and feces. The most common marking behaviour is dragging the anal glands on a surface to leave a scent. It is able to identify animal species, sex, and whether the animal that left the scent is known or unknown by smelling an anal scent secretion. This species has been found in a wide range of habitats including evergreen and deciduous forest (primary and secondary), plantations and near humans, in habitats up to 2,400 m (Ratnam et al., 1995; Heydon and Bulloh, 1996; Duckworth 1997; Azlan, 2003; Heaney et al. 2004; Su Su, 2005; Wells et al. 2005; Than Zaw et al. in press). Radio-tracking studies have revealed home-ranges of up to 17 km˛ for males and 1.6 km˛ for females (Dhungle and Edge, 1985; Rabinowitz, 1991; Joshi et al. 1995; Grassman, 1998). 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.2004). 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 molluscs (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).
Systems: Terrestrial

Major Threat(s):

In some parts of its range this species is hunted for bush meat and the pet trade. In South China it is extensively hunted and trapped (Lau pers. comm.). It is also persecuted as a pest (Gupta, 2004, Su Su 2005, GMA Philippines, 2006) though it seems able to tolerate very high levels of persecution (e.g., Duckworth 1997). Dead individuals of this species were found with local tribes during a visit to Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and Agra, Uttar Pradesh in India between 1998 and 2003, where it is killed for its meat (Gupta, 2004). While these pressures are certainly having localized effects on populations in highly fragmented and ‘humanized’ areas, e.g. Houay Nhang (Lao PDR), there is no evidence in mainland Southeast Asia of them significantly reducing the population levels in large tracts of natural and semi-natural habitat, even in the heavily hunted countries of Lao PDR and Vietnam; while in India it is a common urban commensal (e.g., Gupta 2004).

 Conservation Actions:

It is found within protected areas throughout its range (e.g. Lao PDR - Duckworth 1997, Vietnam – Roberton et al. in prep.; Cambodia–J. L. Walmart pers. comm.; Myanmar – Than Zaw et al. in press). It was recorded from Hlawga Wildlife Park in Myanmar between 2000 and 2003 (Su Su, 2005). 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). It was also recorded from Temengor Forest Reserve in Malaysia by Ratnam et al. (1995). It has been found in Bawangling, Wuzhishan and Yinggeling Nature Reserves in Hainan in the last few years (Lau pers. comm. 2006). This species is protected in Malaysia (Azlan pers. comm.). It is protected by law in Sichuan, China (Li et al, 2000), and it is listed as Vulnerable on the China Red List (Wang and Xie, 2004). It is listed on CITES Appendix III (India). Field surveys, ecological studies, habitat protection and monitoring of threats are needed, especially in areas where it may be reduced due to human depredation (ie China).