A-z - Animals

African civet

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Classification and Evolution

The African civet is a large civet found in the savannahs and forests of sub-Saharan Africa. It is the only member of its genus and is considered the largest civet-like animal on the African continent. Regardless of their feline appearance, African civets are not cats, and are actually more closely related to other small carnivores such as weasels and mongooses. It is best known for the musk it secretes to mark its territory (called the civetone), which has been used in the production of perfumes for centuries. The striking black and white markings of this mammal make it easy to identify.

African civet 1

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Evolution and Origin

It is believed that the African civet is a descendant of the genus Civet . Although closely related, they likely diverged 12 million years ago. Due to several distinct differences between the two, the genus was determined to be a new species, and due to the large number of contrasting characters, is currently the only member of the genus Civettictis .

anatomy and appearance

an african civet
African civets are distinguished by the black and white markings on their fur.

© Николай Усик / http://paradoxusik.livejournal.com/ / Creative Commons – License

One of the most distinctive features of African civets is the black and white markings on their fur and gray face. Apart from the black bands around the eyes, their coloring makes these animals look like raccoons. This similarity is further reinforced by the fact that the African civet's hind legs are much longer than its front legs, making its posture very different from that of a mongoose. The average body length of an adult civet is about 27.55 inches, with tails of almost the same length and five fingers on each paw that are non-retractable, allowing them to move through trees with ease.

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Distribution and Habitat

The African civet is found in numerous habitats on the African continent, with a range extending from coast to coast, and can also be found in the river systems of Chad, Mali and Niger in sub-Saharan Africa. They are most commonly found in jungle and tropical forests and in areas with large amounts of dense vegetation that provide both shelter and animals on which African civets depend. These mammals are rare in arid regions and must always be in areas with good water, although it is not uncommon to find them along rivers leading to drier environments. In addition to being good swimmers, they often hunt and rest in trees and on the ground.

Behavior and Lifestyle

African Palm Civet (Nandinia binotata) - Baby African Palm Civet
African civets are known to be very territorial and gather in large groups during mating season.

©Mark Sheridan-Johnson/Shutterstock.com

A solitary animal that only comes out to hunt in the dark, these nocturnal animals are primarily arboreal and spend most of the day resting in the safety of trees. African civets tend to be most active at dusk, just after sunset, but they tend to hunt in areas that still provide ample cover. Although entirely solitary animals, African civets have been known to gather in larger groups of up to 15 members, especially during mating season. Highly territorial animals that mark their boundaries with scents released from their perineal glands.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The only time African civets seem to be together is when they are mating. Females usually give birth to up to four young after a gestation period that lasts several months and build a nest in an underground burrow dug by another animal to safely raise the young. Unlike many of their carnivorous relatives, baby civet cats are usually born with mobility and fur. The babies are cared for by their mothers until they are strong enough to take care of themselves. African civets can live up to 20 years, but many rarely live that old.

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diet and prey

African Palm Civet (Nandinia binotata)
Civets have a varied diet that includes meat and plants.

© francesco de marco/Shutterstock.com

Although the African civet is a carnivorous mammal, its diet is very diverse and includes animal and plant matter. Small animals such as frogs, rodents, lizards and snakes make up the majority of the African civet's diet, along with berries, insects, fallen fruit and whatever it finds on the forest floor. Instead of using its claws, the African civet mainly uses its teeth and mouth to collect food, this feeding method means that it can effectively use its 40 sharp teeth to break down the catch, while its strong The jaws make it harder for it to try to eat and escape.

Predators and Threats

Despite being a stealthy but relatively relentless predator, the African civet is actually preyed upon by numerous predators in its natural environment. Big carnivorous cats are the most common hunters of African civets, including leopards and lions, as well as large snakes and crocodiles. African civet populations are also threatened by habitat loss and deforestation, and have historically been vulnerable to trophy hunters across Africa. One of the biggest threats to the African civet is the demand for its musk.

Interesting Facts and Features

The musk glands of the African civet are an ingredient in some of the most expensive perfumes in the world.

© Caldari/Creative Commons

Glands near the civet's reproductive organs secrete a musk that has been harvested by humans for centuries. The smell is said to be quite off-putting to people when it is in concentrated form, but is much more pleasant once diluted. The scent became one of the ingredients in some of the most expensive perfumes in the world, and led to the African civet becoming a well-known animal. African civet cats have been known to carry rabies, a disease contracted through contact with infected animals.

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relationship with humans

Each African civet excretes up to 4 grams of musk per week, which is usually collected in the wild. However, the practice of capturing and breeding African civets for musk is not well known and is considered an extremely cruel industry. Today, very few perfumes still contain real musk from the glands, as many scents today are easily reproduced artificially. While it's not yet endangered, its population has also been heavily impacted by human hunters, who like to add their pelts and skins to loot cabinets.

Protect the status quo and life today

The African civet is not currently in danger of extinction.

© Cliff/Creative Commons

Today, the African civet is threatened by deforestation and therefore in danger of losing much of its natural habitat. There is so much deforestation in the area due to the cutting and clearing of land. The African civet is currently listed as a species of least concern, which means that there is currently little threat of extinction in the near future.

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African civets are omnivores, which means they eat both plants and other animals.

African civets belong to the animal kingdom.

African civets belong to the phylum Chordate.

African civets belong to the civet family.

African civets belong to the order Carnivora.

The biggest threat facing the African civet is habitat loss.