Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Pallas, 1777)

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum/Division:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Family:Viverridae
Genus:Paradoxurus
Species:P. hermaphroditus
Common Names:Common Palm Civet, Musang, Toddycat, Luwak
Status:Common

Description

The Common Palm Civet is a small to medium-sized mammal which has greyish fur, except the muzzle, ears, lower legs and distal part of tail being black. It has a characteristic black facial mask, leaving only a small white patch under its eyes and on each side of the nostrils. On its back, spots line up to form three indistinct longitudinal lines from the shoulders to the tail. On its sides, the fur can sometimes be spotted.

Size: head and body up to 59 cm; tail up to 53 cm.

Read more about the Carnivora order.
Read more about the Viverridae family.

Distribution

Found in most countries in central, south and southeast Asia, including India, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore to Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Localities

This is the only native wild carnivore that has been commonly sighted in forested and urban environments of Singapore. Its distribution is widespread throughout Singapore, including Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Portsdown Road, Pulau Ubin, Siglap/Opera Estate, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Locality Map

General Biology

The Common Palm Civet is active mainly at night as well as at dawn and dusk. It is generally solitary except when the female has babies.

In Singapore, this species can be found in both natural and urban environments. It is arboreal and is a great climber, although, in urban areas, it is sometimes spotted on the ground. It is highly adaptable and has been documented to visit attics of old houses and enter homes. Urban civets have also been observed to utilise overhead cable lines, fences, and even drains to travel from place to place.

The Common Palm Civet, like other carnivores, is known to defecate in open and conspicuous sites, such as forest trails, boardwalks and roof tops—a behaviour for scent marking their territories.

Diet

The Common Palm Civet feeds mainly on fruits, including that of Fishtail Palm (Caryota mitis), Chiku (Manilkara zapota), Rain Tree (Albizia saman), Noni (Morinda citrifolia), and Climbing Fig (Ficus aurantiaca). It also feeds on a variety of food items including invertebrates like the Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica), vertebrates, and plant matter.

Life Cycle

Each litter can have up to three young.

Ecological Role

In addition to being a frugivore, the Common Palm Civet swallows seeds whole and defecates viable seeds. This potential role of the civet as a long distance seed disperser and its relevance to forest regeneration are therefore of significant interest.

Human Uses

The Common Palm Civet is famously known to consume coffee berries, and coffee kernels extracted from the scats produce the most expensive coffee in the world—Kopi Luwak.

References

Chua, M.A.H. & K.K.P. Lim, 2011. Civets. Pp. 265. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors), Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development. Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 552 pp.

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