Large-spotted Civet (Viverra megaspila)

Description:

HB: 720-850; T: 300-369; HF: 130-138; E: 45-48; W: 8-9kg.

This large civet is distinguished by the large black spots on the flanks, thighs and hind legs on a ground colour which varies from grey to buff. As in V. zibetha there is an erectile crest beginning at the neck,, but in megaspila the crest continues down the tail as a strip of black hairs, so that the white rings cannot completely encircle the tail. Also the head is more massive than in zibetha, and the muzzle is longer and more swollen. The feet are solid brown. The skull resembles that of zibetha but as larger bullae, a more post orbital process constriction and smaller post orbital process, located behind the mid point of the total lenght of the skull. The suborbital foramina has the long axis horizontal. The dentition is similar to zibetha but with longer maxillary tooth row and smaller canines and incisors.

Range Description:

This species is found in Southern China (last record in 1998; Ying-xiang pers. comm.), Cambodia (Walston 2001; Olson pers. obs.), Lao PDR (Duckworth 1997; Khounboline 2005), Peninsular Malaysia (last record in 1985; Asakawa et al. 1986), Myanmar (Lynam et al. 2005), Thailand (Lynam et al 2005) and Vietnam (Roberton et al. in prep.). Only one record from Cambodia was reported by Walston (2001), but the advent of camera-trapping led to many more recent records (CI, WCS, WWF, unpublished per J. Walston pers. comm., Olson pers. comm. 2006). There is some confusion as to whether this species has been found on Singapore, and some authors are explicit that it does not occur there (Harrison 1966), and the only specimen checked has not turned out to represent this species (Lyman et al. 2005). There are historical records from Peninsular Malaysia (including one from Penang Island) (Veron 2004). However, the only recent record from Peninsular Malaysia appears to be a road-kill from Sungai Petani in 1985 (Asakawa et al. 1986). There are also several records from southern China (Southern Yunnan and south western Guangxi; Wang Ying-xiang 1987, 2003; Zhang Yong-zu 1997; Wang Sung 1998; Sheng Helin et al. 1999). It was recorded by Lynam et al. (2005) in Htuang Pru Reserve Forest and Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar, and Taphyra National Park in Thailand. In Thailand, the species has been found in several protected areas, and there is a southern record from Bam Nang Nom (Ra Nong Province). This species is a lowland species, with almost all field records from below 300 m (Lyman et al. 2005). In fact, Lyman et al. (2005) report that they "are not aware of any site in non-Sundaic Southeast Asia lying predominantly under 300 m, supporting 500+ sq. km of (semi-) evergreen forest, and having received heavy camera trapping or spotlighting effort, that has not recorded the species." A freshly-killed (by hunters) specimen was reported from Ban Thalang (Thalang village; formerly Ban Namtheun; 1751'N, 10503'E, ca. 520 m) on the Nakai Plateau of central Lao PDR significantly higher in altitude than other recent records of this species, and this level area also hold population of plains birds at anomalously high altitude (Khounboline 2005). The species is potentially more widespread in Myanmar, as there have been few surveys below 300 m using appropriate techniques (Than Zaw et al. in press). There are only five confirmed records from Vietnam, with the furthest north being Phong Nha NP (Roberton et al. In prep). If the species was once present further north in Viet Nam, it is doubtful that any significant populations could still survive (Timmins and Roberton pers. comm.2006). The lack of records in Viet Nam seems to reflect a genuine scarcity in the species and not a lack of appropriate surveys. There are no recent records from China, with the last record from 1998 (Wang Ying-xiang pers. comm.2006). The species is potentially more widespread in Lao PDR, as there have been few surveys below 300 m using appropriate techniques (Duckworth pers comm. 2006). The records from Xe Pian National Protected area suggest that its reasonably common in level lowland forest (Austin 1999). It is probably rare on the Nakai Plateau of central Lao PDR (Khounboline 2005). In Cambodia, there are three records from camera traps in the southwest. The species has been commonly photo-trapped in several sites in northern and eastern Cambodia (CI, WCS, WWF, unpublished per J. Walstone pers. comm.). Albeit considered widely distributed geographically in Peninsular Malaysia, it was considered rare (Medway 1977). There are no recent records from the area. The species is likely to be very localized on Peninsular Malaysia, as there has been appropriate surveys at low altitudes without results (Azlan pers comm. 2006).
Countries: Native:
Cambodia; China; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Thailand; Vietnam

Population:

The population status is poorly known. What is know are from relatively few recent records anywhere in its range (Lynam et al. 2005). In Lao PDR, from 1997-1999 there were four singles camera trapped in Xe Pian National Biodiversity Conservation Area (main block and Dong Kalo) in early 1997 (Astain 1999). Recent records of this species in Lao come only from Phou Xang He and Xe Pian National Biodiversity Conservation Areas (Duckworth et al. 1999) and the Nakai Plateau in 2002 (Khounboline 2005). There are no Lao records from hill and montane forest, but the species has been found in forest below 300 m which suggests that it is genuinely patchy in occurrence (Lynam et al. 2005). In Thailand, it used to be found all over the country and was rather common (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Little over a decade later, a global review of all species of Viverridae found that there was very little known about this species, and traced no records from protected areas, and urged for surveys to assess its current status (Schreiber et al 1989). This disparity is probably due to heavy logging of lowland forest in the interim, and indicates an actual decline and fragmentation in population (Lynam et al, 2005). There are few recent records from Viet Nam (R. J. Timmins in litt, 2004). It has been found at several sites in Cambodia (J. L. Walston in litt, 2004).
Population Trend: Decreasing

 Habitat and Ecology:

This species has been recorded in evergreen and deciduous forest, and dry dipterocarp forest, all below 300 m of altitude (Duckworth, 1994, Austin, 1999; Duckworth et al., 1999; Lynam et al. 2005; Kanchanasaka pers. comm.).  In China, the species is found below 800 m, although the exact habitat is unknown. In Myanmar, there are records from evergreen forest, including forest-grassland edges at 300 m, and there is no information on whether the species is found in some of the dry lowland forests in Myanmar which are the more prevalent habitat within the species' known elevational range (Than Zaw et al. in press). In Lao PDR, the species occurs in lowland evergreen/semi-evergreen forest (including degraded areas) with one in open dry dipterocarp forest, all below 300 m altitude (Duckworth et al, 1999), with one outlier at 520 m (Khounboline 2005). In Thailand, it is found in deciduous forest and dry evergreen forest (Kanchanasaka pers. comm.2006). Within northern and eastern Cambodia, the species is found in mosaic deciduous forest, along with semi-evergreen patches and riverine gallery forest (WCS, WWF, CI pers. comm.2006). Lyman et al (2005) report three records of this species from evergreen forest, the predominant habitat of other recent records, though some have come from deciduous dipterocarp forest (Duckworth, 1994; Austin, 1999). The species is not dependent on primary forest, and can probably persist in degraded forest that has forest structure (Duckworth, 1994). New information from Cambodia and elsewhere suggests that it can live in fragmented areas, but that it might only persist in large forest blocks (Timmins and Duckworth pers. comm.), as was previously suggested by Lynam et al (2005). This species can potentially be misidentified as either Viverra zibetha or Viverra tangalunga and it is important that wherever possible records are verified through photographs (J.W. Duckworth pers. comm.2006).
Systems: Terrestrial

 Major Threat(s):

Throughout much of this species range, terrestrial small carnivores are exposed to heavy hunting, particularly with snares and dogs. This is occurring in much of its range, including Lao PDR (Duckworth et al. 1999) and Thailand, with snaring found even in some protected areas such as Ta Pra Ya National Park. There has been an increased demand for food of civets in Chinese and Vietnamese markets (Bell et al., 2004; Lyman et al. 2005). From the 1970s and the 1990s, large areas of lowland forest were logged across parts the species' range, particularly in China, Thailand and Vietnam, including conversion to non-forest land-uses (Lynam et al. 2005; Wang Ying-xiang pers. comm. 2006). This increased fragmentation of habitat increases the threat of hunting as well as the direct loss in area able to support the species (Lynam et al. 2005). In Cambodia, at present there is a massive trend in deforestation of lowlands, particularly for local agriculture (Timmins pers. comm. 2006). In Myanmar, there is a major trend in conversion of forest to plant oil agriculture, particularly in lowlands (Duckworth and Than Zaw pers. comm. 2006). As a ground-dwelling species, and by analogy with V. zibetha, this species should be readily snared. Despite the massive levels of civet hunting, and the often-taken opportunities to check large numbers of civets in trade, this species is not recorded in the widespread trade in China (Lau et al.,1997; Kadoorie Farm and Botanic Garden, 2004) and Vietnam, which suggests that the populations are already reduced to overall extremely low levels (Scott Roberton and Wang Ying-xiang, Nguyen Xuan Dang, Michael Lau pers. comm.).

 Conservation Actions:

The species is found in some protected areas in its range, including two in Viet Nam (Roberton et al, In prep), as well as Phou Xang He and Xe Pian National Biodiversity Conservation Areas in Lao PDR (Duckworth et al, 1999). It was recorded by Lyman et al (2005) in Htuang Pru Reserve Forest and Hukaung Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Myanmar, and Taphyra National Park in Thailand. In Vietnam, the trade in the species is nominally regulated, and it is protected in Group 2b (Roberton et al, in prep). This species is protected in Myanmar under the Wildlife Act of 1994. The species is protected in Peninsular Malaysia and Thailand, but there is no protection in China. Though there have presumably been recent advances in reduction of gun usage by civilians for hunting, there have been increased snaring efforts (in compensation), and there is now a need to reduce, and preferably eradicate, this form of hunting (Lyman et al, 2005).

HOME