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African Palm Civet Classification and Evolution

The African Palm Civet (also commonly known as the Two-Spotted


Palm Civet) is a species of Civet natively found in the tropical jungles
of eastern and central Africa. Unlike the other Civet species which are
all very closely related to one another, the African Palm Civet is in a
genetic groupof its own, making it the most distinctive among the
Civet species. The African Palm Civet is widespread throughout a
number of habitats with an abundance in numbers in certain areas.
The African Palm Civet is a great opportunist and is thought to be the
most common forest-dwelling small carnivore in all of Africa.

African Palm Civet Anatomy and Appearance


Despite their Cat-like appearance and behaviours, the African Palm
Civet is not a feline at all but are in fact more closely related to other
small carnivores including Genets, Weasels and Mongooses. One of the
African Palm Civets most distinctive features are their brown to light-
tan to yellow coloured thick fur, which is mottled with a series of
darker brown spots. The fur is darker on the top half of its body and
allows the civet to be more easily camouflaged amongst the trees. The
muzzle of the African Palm Civet is sharply pointed as with other
Civet species, and it has strong and muscular yet relatively short limbs.
They have small, rounded ears and yellow-green eyes with slit shaped
pupils.

African Palm Civet Distribution and Habitat


The African Palm Civet is found inhabiting the tropical jungles and
forest across much of eastern African and is even found parts of
central and western Africa, where its native habitats still exist. Today
its range extends from southern Sudan to Guinea,
throughout Angola and into eastern Zimbabwe. African Palm Civets
have proved to be extremely adaptable animals and are found in a
wide variety of habitats from deciduous forests and
lowland rainforests, to river and savanna woodlands. The African Palm
Civet however is being threatened in much of its natural range due to
deforestation causing destruction to or total loss of many of their
historical regions.

African Palm Civet Behaviour and Lifestyle


The African Palm Civet is a solitary animal that leads a
crepuscular lifestyle, meaning that it only emerges for a few hours at
dawn and dusk in order to hunt for food. They are primarily tree-
dwelling creatures that spend most of the day and night hours resting
in the safety and shelter of the trees. Despite being generally very
solitary creatures, the African Palm Civet has been known to gather
in groups of up to 15 members when food is in abundance. African
Palm Civets have two sets of scent glands that secret strong-smelling
substances. Found between the third and forth toes on each foot, and
on the lower part of their abdomen, these glandular secretions are
primarily for marking territories and are involved in mating.

African Palm Civet Reproduction and Life Cycles


African Palm Civets are able to breed twice a year in May and October
during the rainy seasons, when there is more food available. The
female African Palm Civet usually gives birth to up to 4 young after
a gestation period that lasts for a couple of months. The babies are
weaned by their mother until they are strong enough to fend for
themselves when they are usually around 60 days old. The female's
mammary glands produce a orange-yellow liquid which stains both her
tummy and the babies fur the same colour. This is thought to
discourage males that are either looking for a mate or who want to
harm her young. African Palm Civets can live for up to 15 years,
although few rarely get to be this old in the wild.

African Palm Civet Diet and Prey


The African Palm Civet is an omnivorous animal, and like
other species of Civet, it survives on a diet comprised of both plants
and other animals. Despite this, pineapples and other fruits make up
the majority of its diet. Small animals such as
Rodents, Lizards, Birds and Frogs are also hunted by the African Palm
Civet, along with insects. African Palm Civets feed by holding
their prey in their hands and bite it powerfully a number of times to kill
it, before then swallowing it whole. The long, sturdy tail is thought to
be used as a brace when the Civet is balancing only on its hind legs,
and along with the thick-skinned pads on the bottom of its feet,
stabilises the African Palm Civet on the branch while its eating.

African Palm Civet Predators and Threats


Despite being a secretive yet relatively ferocious predator, the African
Palm Civet is actually preyed upon by a number of predators within
their natural environment. Although they do spend most of their lives
in the trees, African Palm Civets come down to the ground to look for
food fairly often, and will even venture outside of the forest if prey is
in short supply. Large predatory Cats are the most
common predators of the African Palm Civet including Lions,
and Leopardsthat are able to hunt the Civet in the trees. Reptiles such
as large Snakes and Crocodiles also hunt the African Palm Civet if
given the chance. One of the biggest threats to the African Palm Civet
today though is the loss of much of its natural habitat, mainly due to
deforestation.

African Palm Civet Interesting Facts and Features


The musk secreted by the glands close to the African Palm Civet's
reproductive organs has been collected by Humans for hundreds of
years. In its concentrated form, the smell is said to be quite offensive
to people, but much more pleasant once diluted. It was this scent that
became one of the ingredients in some of the most expensive
perfumes in the world. African Palm Civet females are known to
produce milk from the exact number of teats as they have young, to
ensure that each of their offspring has enough milk to drink and
individuals are not so easily excluded during feeding time. Although it
is not so common today, African Palm Civets were once commonly
hunted as bushmeat in certain parts of the continent.

African Palm Civet Relationship with Humans


Farmers that live in the native habitats of the African Palm Civet view
these animals very much as pests, as they are commonly known to raid
poultry coops in order to get an easy meal. They are extremely
persistent and abundant carnivores, which added to their
secretiveness, has meant that they have caused great damage to
livestock numbers in the past. Humans though have been a bigger
threat to the African Palm Civet for years as they were hunted and
trapped for their meat, scent and thick fur coat which is used to make
traditional ceremonial garments. The destruction of the African Palm
Civet's natural environment by people is thought to be the biggest
threat to the species today.

African Palm Civet Conservation Status and Life Today


The African Palm Civet has been listed as an animal that is at lower risk
and therefore of Least Concern of becoming extinct in the wild in the
immediate future. They are known to be widely distributed, found in a
variety of habitats and population numbers are also in abundance in
certain areas. Today, the African Palm Civet is under threat from
deforestation and has been subjected to the drastic loss of much of its
natural habitat. The main reason for such extensive deforestation in
these areas is either for logging or to clear the land to make way
for palm oilplantations.