Macrogalidia musschenbroekii 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Macrogalidia musschenbroekii
Species Authority: (Schlegel, 1877)
Common Name(s):
English Sulawesi Civet, Brown Palm Civet, Sulawesi Palm Civet

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Vulnerable A2cd+3cd+4cd; C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-04-18
Assessor(s): Tasirin, J., Dinets, V., Meijaard, E., Brodie, J., Nijman, V., Loffeld, T.A.C., Hilser, H., Shepherd, C., Seymour, A.S. & Duckworth, J.W.
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
Contributor(s): Hutchinson, R., Engelhardt, A., MacKinnon, J.R., Jihad, Clayton, L., Lambaihang, J., Wood, P., Purser, S., Hunowu, I., Hall, J., Eggen, W., Martin, T., Priston, N., Siwu, S. & Leggett, M.
Sulawesi Civet is listed as Vulnerable because of its presumed population decline rate and small population. A coarse estimate of forest loss on Sulawesi for the period 2000-2010 combined with evidence (from one site) that the species depends on forest indicates a decline in habitat of about 26% over a three-generation period, taken as 15 years (see ‘Population’); within surviving habitat, population losses, if any, from hunting and killing in retaliation for taking small livestock will be additional. Even though mammal hunting is pervasive in at least some parts of the species' range, there is no evidence that this species is declining through hunting for consumption (directly or as bycatch). However, the numbers killed in retribution for predation on small livestock may be significant, particularly with the extensive forest conversion and fragmentation meaning that a much higher proportion of the population is now in striking range of human habitation (animals will move at least 5 km from forest and take livestock). This factor is assumed to give an overall loss over the last three generations exceeding 30%. These rates are likely to continue for the next three generations.

It is also plausible that Sulawesi Civet is, overall, rare. About 40,000 km² of primary forest were recently assessed to persist on Sulawesi. Assuming Wemmer and Watling’s (1986) finding in Lore Lindu National Park of a strong association with old-growth forest applies across the species’s range, and that the evidence of absence from even some old-growth forest, e.g., Tangkoko, and the general rarity of records indicates a patchy distribution, the population is likely to be small enough for categorisation as Vulnerable under criterion C too. Specifically, if only half the ‘primary’ forest is occupied, at a density of one animal per 1.5 km², this gives a total population of 13,300 animals, of which perhaps about two-thirds (9,000) would be mature individuals. Indeed, it is even plausible that the number of mature individuals might be below the threshold for Endangered (2,500): this would be so if only a quarter of the forest were occupied, and at a density of one animal per 3 km², with one-third of the population not being mature individuals. There is no evidence of such low densities in occupied habitat or of such a low proportion of habitat being occupied, but this scenario is not inconceivable.

Pending further information, the existing Vulnerable categorisation is maintained. A better understanding of the species' conservation status and needs is a high priority.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Vulnerable (VU)
1996 Vulnerable (VU)
1994 Rare (R)
1990 Rare (R)
1988 Rare (R)
1986 Rare (R)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Sulawesi Civet is endemic to Sulawesi. It was previously known only from the north and central parts of the island (Wemmer and Watling 1986), but it is now known to occur also in the island's south-east: individuals were camera-trapped at Rawa Aopa National Park, Tanjung Peropa Wildlife Reserve and Mangolo Recreation Forest (Lee et al. 2003). There are no certain records from islands other than mainland Sulawesi, but a sighting potentially of this species on Kadiriri Island (Brugiere 2012, D. Brugiere pers. comm. 2015) indicates that it might also occur on the Togian archipelago; these islands do support other highly distinct mammals endemic to Sulawesi and adjacent islands, such as babirousas Babyrousa and black macaques Macaca. Similarly, many of the people living around the forest on Buton Island, off south-east Sulawesi, have a name for a second species of civet (additional to Malay Civet Viverra tangalunga) matching the description of the Sulawesi endemic (Seymour et al. 2010). Sulawesi Civet has not, however, been found in two years of camera-trapping on the island (3,000–4,000 camera-trap-nights over 100–900 m a.s.l.; J. Brodie in litt. 2015), and there is no even provisional sighting in over 20 years of multi-disciplinary biological fieldwork on the island (including investigations of the animals kept in homes and traded in markets; T. Martin pers. comm. 2015, N. Priston pers. comm. 2015, H. Hilser pers. comm. 2015). These remarks should be seen in the context of how this species has previously been overlooked; for example, the capable collector H.C. Raven collected intensively in 1915–1918 without finding the species, including much effort in what is now Lore Lindu National Park, an area in which the species was found to be "common" 60 years later (Wemmer and Watling 1986); it is unlikely to have colonised during the interim. Even villagers living close to the species are often not specifically aware of its existence (Wemmer and Watling 1986). Thus, lack of village familiarity should not be seen as an indication that it is not in any given area.

Skeletal remains in the Bola Batoe and Tjadang caves in south-west Sulawesi indicate a former wider distribution (Hooijer 1950); it should not be excluded that the species awaits rediscovery in that part of the island.

Sulawesi Civet is known to occur from sea-level up to 2,600 m (Wemmer and Watling 1986).
Countries occurrence:
Indonesia (Sulawesi)
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO): Yes
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO): Unknown
Estimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO): Unknown
Continuing decline in number of locations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations: Unknown
Upper elevation limit (metres): 2600
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The overall population status of Sulawesi Civet is very poorly known. Published records are very scarce (Wemmer et al. 1983, Wemmer and Watling 1986, Lee et al. 2003) and only 28 museum specimens are known (Veron 2001). Unpublished records and reports include: (1) Bakiriang Wildlife Sanctuary, central Sulawesi: a single individual observed by night in 2013; (2) an unconfirmed record from Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park in 1993; (3) Feruhumpenai-Matano Nature Reserve; and (4) Karaeng-Lompobattang Protection Forest (P. Wood pers. comm. 2014, Jihad pers. comm. 2014). There are also unconfirmed reports (rare sightings by local people) from a forest near Tomohon, 25 km south of Manado (J. Tasirin pers. comm. 2014) and from the Togian archipelago and Buton island (see the Geographic Range section).

Sulawesi Civet is evidently rare in, or locally absent from, some areas within its general geographic range. In the well-studied Tangkoko Reserve, it was not found in the only camera-trap survey to date, of about 1,000 camera-trap-nights over 0–1,000 m a.s.l. (J. Brodie pers. comm. 2015). In many years of intensive wildlife watching, Jukber Lambaihang (pers. comm. 2015) has never seen Sulawesi Civet at this site, although he has observed it in Lore Lindu National Park. Similarly, R. Hutchinson (pers. comm. 2015) has seen it only in Lore Lindu NP. In five full nights of spotlighting on foot on Sulawesi, V. Dinets (pers. comm. 2015) never found the species, and in 3–5 hours of night driving through forest, he had only one record: near Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, 1–2 km from the park office. In south-east Sulawesi, Lee et al. (2003) found it in three of the five survey areas in which they camera-trapped, suggesting that it could be relatively widespread there, although they had only one record at each. Their encounter rate has been considered to suggest that the species is scarce in this part of the island, but it is difficult to make any deduction about abundance from this information. Lee et al. (2003) reported that they set their camera-traps 1–1.5 m above the ground: this is so much higher than is ideal for surveying small carnivores that it is likely to have depressed encounter rates, and in the same programme, they photographed Malay Civet only once, and Common Palm Civet not at all (I. Hunowu verbally 2008). The low total number of Sulawesi Civet photographs might simply reflect the low total effort. This was given as 23,485 hours (= 9,653 + 5,187 + 8,645, in three areas), which equates to 979 camera-trap-nights. Comparison with figures for palm civet camera-trapping in a range of sites across Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008), where camera-traps were set 40–50 cm above ground, and thus more photographs of civets would be expected, gives no support that the results in Lee et al. of ‘only’ three photograph events indicate rarity of Sulawesi Civet. In roughly 27,700 trap-nights in Myanmar, there were 36 photograph events of Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphoditus, ten of Masked Palm Civet Paguma larvata and none of Small-toothed Palm Civet Arctogalidia trivirgata (which is almost wholly arboreal). For easier comparison, Lee et al. (2003) found Sulawesi Civet at 3.0 events per 1,000 trap-nights, exceeding Myanmar’s figures of 1.3 Common Palm Civet events per 1,000 trap-nights, 0.36 Masked Palm Civet events per 1,000 trap-nights, and 1.6 palm civet events (all species combined) per 1,000 trap-nights. If Sulawesi Civet is more active on the ground than are these palm civets, then a more relevant comparison with Myanmar would be with the ground-dwelling Large Indian Civet Viverra zibetha; Than Zaw et al. (2008) recorded this at 4.6 events per 1,000 trap-nights, only at 150% the rate at which Sulawesi Civet was being camera-trapped by Lee et al. (2003). This difference could simply reflect that in the heights at which the two survey programmes set their camera-traps. But in fact all evidence (notably Wemmer and Watling 1986) suggests that Sulawesi Civet is significantly arboreal, meaning that ground-level camera-traps (at least, non-baited ones) might well be less effective at detecting it than at finding Viverra civets. Moreover, the exact microhabitats at which camera-traps are set can have huge, though rarely quantified, effects on the frequency with which individual species are photographed. With only three events, the Lee et al. (2003) records do not allow any strong statement of the species’s abundance in this area. The considered opinion of Wemmer and Watling (1986: 8), based upon more field contact with the species than any other Western biologists, was that “in the Lore Lindu Reserve Macrogalidia was common”. Extrapolating this single-site conclusion to the whole island would be rash, but it underlines that there is as yet no real evidence that the species is genuinely rare in the areas where it occurs; nor indeed is there any that it is not rare. The paucity of records in trade or villages (see 'Theats') suggests that the species might be rare; although its part-aboreality might insulate it somewhat from the largely ground-operating traps used in most hunting on the island for animals of this size-class and above, it evidently spends significant time on the ground as shown by the finding of footprints by Wemmer and Watling (1986) and, perhaps, the camera-trapping of Lee et al. (2003), although it is not stated in the latter whether lures, which can bring arboreal animals to the ground, were used. Activity on the ground exposes it to various forms of trapping (see 'Threats'), and although in theory possible, it is implausible that bycatch Sulawesi Civets were abandoned in the field, it is more likely that few are caught.

There is no direct information on the population trend, but assuming that this species is indeed strongly reliant upon old-growth forest (see Wemmer and Watling (1986)), forest change can be used to suggest what might be the broad trend. According to Abood et al. (2014), Sulawesi lost about 20,000 km² of forest between 2000 and 2010, mostly in areas outside industrial concessions for timber, pulp and paper, oil palm and mining, According to the Ministry of Forestry (2011), Sulawesi had 101,172 km² of forest in 2010, of which 39,151 km² was primary, 61,854 km² secondary, and 167 km² planted forest. A total of 20,000 km² of forest loss between 2000 and 2010 would indicate that there was about 120,000 km² of forest in 2000, and that Sulawesi had lost 17% of its forest in this 10-year period. Assuming that these rates remained similar over a 15-year window (i.e., the last three generations, with one generation taken as five years; Pacifici et al. 2013), this indicates a decline in habitat of about 26%. Any losses within remaining habitat will be additional to this; given the level of conflict with livestock around Lore Lindu documented by Wemmer and Watling (1986) and increased fragmentation of Sulawesi’s forests since then, these losses are likely to be driving additional declines (see the Threats section).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 9000 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: Unknown Population severely fragmented: Unknown
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: Unknown All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: The ecology of Sulawesi Civet is known mostly from one study in Lore Lindu. Information from elsewhere is insufficient to tell whether its natural history varies across the island. It has been recorded in lowland forest, lower and upper montane forest, grasslands and near farms (Wemmer and Watling 1986, Musser and Dagosto 1987, Lee et al. 2003), and indeed Lee et al. (2003) stated that “this civet is not a specialist, neither restricted by elevation nor disturbance regime”. While it clearly uses a wide elevation range, the implication that populations can persist in heavily degraded areas lacks any supporting information and is at variance with the opinion of Wemmer and Watling (1986), who considered it strongly associated with primary forest, while accepting that animals sometimes wandered outside (at least 5 km from forest), perhaps specifically to prey on livestock.

Wemmer and Watling (1986) proposed that it takes about 5-10 days for an animal to cover its home range, predicted this range to be ‘large’, and considered that the species does not preferentially use trails within the forest, but goes anywhere (this latter may have ramifications for interpreting unbaited camera-trap encounter rates).

This species is perhaps a specialist consumer of Arenga palm fruit, but eats a wide variety of other material: the percentage occurrence of food items in 47 faeces found in the Lore Lindu Reserve was: 47% rodents, 45% Arenga palm fruit, 15% Pandanus palm fruit, 4% Sulawesi Dwarf Cuscus (Stigocuscus celebensus), 2% birds, 2% unidentified fruit, and 2% grass (Wemmer and Watling 1986). It appears to be nocturnal and solitary (Wemmer and Watling 1986, Lee et al. 2003). Wemmer and Watling (1986) observed its great agility (in captivity) and characterised it as strongly arboreal. However, Wemmer and Watling (1986) made clear that they were finding ground-level tracks in unbaited circumstances, and concluded it came to ground to forage more often than do species like Binturong (Arctictis binturong) and African Palm-civet (Nandinia binotata).
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 5
Movement patterns: Unknown

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There is no evidence of significant use of this species, although those individuals taken in the process of hunting other species are likely to be consumed domestically or, exceptionally, traded (see the Threats section).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Sulawesi Civet can safely be stated to be threatened by forest loss, degradation and fragmentation, and perhaps by lethal control as a predator of livestock. Hunting and the effects of introduced carnivores are less likely to be driving population declines. The species was considered forest-dependent by Wemmer and Watling (1986), and no subsequent information contradicts this. Ongoing fragmentation of forest can be assumed to expose an ever-higher proportion of the population to retaliatory killing; it is a documented predator of livestock, with three of six conflicts investigated by Wemmer and Watling (1986) resulting in lethal control of the Sulawesi Civet in question.

In North Sulawesi, the impact of hunting on this species is probably low. No information was traced for other parts of the island, and given that ethnic groups may differ in their consumption patterns, the situation in North Sulawesi should not be assumed to hold for the rest of the island. Wemmer and Watling (1986) found no evidence around Lore Lindu that Sulawesi Civet is specifically sought for food, and plenty of circumstantial evidence that it is not. Various more recent market trade and village consumption surveys in North Sulawesi corroborate this. In 2011 surveys of wildlife meat in north Sulawesi markets by Selamatkan Yaki, a programme through Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (UK), did not find the species (T.A.C. Loffeld pers. comm. 2015). Two years of extensive trade surveys in North Sulawesi province in 2001–2003 detected nearly 7,000 wild mammals in road blockades of which fewer than 100 were (in total) small bats (Chiroptera), babirusas Babyrousa, macaques Macaca, cuscuses Phalanger and Stigocuscus, and civets, and almost 100,000 wild mammals in markets, of which only 1.2% were (in total) cuscuses, squirrels (Sciuridae), babirusas, macaques, tarsiers Tarsius, civets, anoas Bubalus, and deer Rusa timorensis (Lee et al. 2005). Similar surveys continued, and up to 2006 there seems to have been no record of Sulawesi Civet in any year (Wildlife Conservation Society per M. Leggett pers. comm. 2015). However, in 2007 one Sulawesi Civet was reported in a truck-load of wildlife meat inspected in Maelang, North Sulawesi province; the consignment was confiscated and buried (J. Tasarin pers.comm. 2015). In 2003, S. Siwu (pers. comm. 2015) photographed parts (including head and paws) of a Sulawesi Civet in Maeleng market. Based on almost continuous market surveys in Tomohon and Langowan from 2000 to 2014, L. Clayton (pers. comm. 2015) considers it to be, at most, rarely traded.

The Minahasans do not usually seek the species for consumption; their order of preferred wildlife meat is, in general, Sulawesi Wild Pig (Sus celebensis), fruit bats (Megachiroptera), white tailed forest rats (Rattus spp.), Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus), macaques, Water Monitor (Varanusalvator), cuscuses, and anoas. Less preferred species such as babirusas, civets, Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo) (meat) or tarsiers, if they are trapped or shot by hunters, may be sent opportunistically to market (J. Tasarin pers. comm. 2015). This is corroborated by intensive surveys of village consumption by the Selamatkan Yaki programme in 2011–2015. These found only four respondents stating that they had eaten or kept ‘musang’ (which could also refer to Malay Civet (Viverra tangalunga), or, if present, Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus)) as a pet. Although if another name were used for Sulawesi Civet, records of consumption would not have been picked up, this suggests a low incidence of in-village consumption in the surveyed areas. In 2011–2012, villages were spread through North Sulawesi: Agotey (Pineleng), Kumu (Tombariri), Wawona (Tatapaan), Paslaten (Tomohon Timur), Tinoor (Tomohon Utara), Rurukan (Tomohon Timur), Pangolombian (Tomohon Selatan), Molas (Bunaken), Kawatak (Langowan Selatan), Kasawari (Aertembaga), Airmadidi (Airmadidi), Pinilih (Dimembe), Dua Sudara (Ranowulu), Kombot (Pinolosian), Lolak (Lolak), Tudo Aog (Boloang), Liberia (Modayag), Sinsingon (Passi Timur) and Tondey (Motoling Barat); in each village 40 respondents were interviewed, resulting in 760 respondents. In 2013, there were 781 respondents in Tomohon and Langowan, in 2014, 1,135 in Airmadidi and Bitung, and in 2015, 764 in Tomohon and Langowan. No respondents mentioned that the eating of any animal was culturally avoided (T.A.C. Loffeld, H. Hilser and V. Melfi pers. comm. 2015). In these areas, most hunting is believed to be with ground snares, nets and dogs (J. Tasarin pers. comm. 2015, L. Clayton pers. comm. 2015, T.A.C. Loffeld pers. comm. 2015). Sulawesi Civet is believed to be largely arboreal (Wemmer and Watling 1986) and thus is might be at low risk from these methods. There is considerable arboreal snaring for rats, but the nooses are too small to catch Sulawesi Civet except by a limb; air-gun hunting perhaps would result in most animals taken (J. Tasarin pers. comm 2015).

Live wildlife markets on Java and Bali trade many civets, including those from Indonesian islands other than Java; no Sulawesi Civet has been noted in these surveys (Shepherd 2012, Nijman et al. 2014, V. Nijman pers. comm. 2015), nor have any come to the Cikananga rescue centre in Java, which has received other Sulawesi species (W. Eggen pers. comm. 2015). There are some ‘civet-lover clubs’ on Sulawesi but whether a significant number of members keep captive Sulawesi Civet has not been established; their internet content does, however, include advice on how to keep it (V. Nijman pers. comm. 2015). If civet-keeping were to rise dramatically in popularity there (as it has on Java; Nijman et al. 2014), and this species were to become a sought-after holding, then given the assumed low population of this species, targeted off-take might substantially exacerbate the rate of decline.

Non-native species of civet (Malay Civet and Common Palm Civet) and domestic cats and dogs might threaten Sulawesi Civet. However, given that it apparently is quite arboreal, none is likely to be a significant predator and the only likely strong competitor might be Common Palm Civet; but this species is scarce (probably not in fact naturalised) on Sulawesi (Wemmer and Watling 1986, Veron 2001). Moreover, on Buton island dogs and cats live in the forest only near villages and roads (Seymour et al. 2010); assuming this is true also for the mainland, they perhaps have little contact with Sulawesi Civet.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Sulawesi Civet is known from several protected areas including Rawa Aopa National Park, Tanjung Peropa Wildlife Reserve, Mangolo Recreation Forest, Lore Lindu National Park (NP), and Bogani Nani Wartabone NP (Wemmer and Watling 1986, Lee et al. 2003, V. Dinets pers. comm. 2015). This species is totally protected in Indonesia (Shepherd 2008).

Understanding of the conservation status of many Asian small carnivores has advanced greatly since the mid 1990s with the widespread use of camera-trapping. This camera-trapping has, however, rarely been targeted at small carnivores: it often focuses on big cats Panthera and Neofelis, Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus), and other high-profile species. None of these inhabit Sulawesi; consequently, camera-trapping has been rather limited on the island, and Sulawesi Civet remains very poorly known. Nonetheless, various large mammals of high conservation concern on Sulawesi (babirusas Babyrousa, endemic macaques Macaca, and anoas Bubalus) receive some level of conservation research and intervention; camera-trapping and activities concerning these genera should be encouraged to seek and collate records of the endemic civet to allow a more informed assessment of its conservation needs.

Maintaining the habitat integrity of the forest protected area network of Sulawesi is probably the most important conservation intervention for this species. More precise recommendations for intervention require further investigation before formulation. More information is specifically needed about: (i) the extent to which retributory killing is a threat to the population rather than simply a cause of death for individuals; (ii) assessment whether the indications from North Sulawesi that there is no significant demand for trade or consumption apply across the island; (iii) evaluation of the relative merits of potential techniques to survey the species' distribution and population status, including, at least, baited and non-baited camera-trapping; (iv) use of the most effective and efficient detection method(s), to determine current distribution, population status and habitat use, specifically, how patchy within old-growth forest the occurrence is; (v) the extent to which the species is kept and desired by civet-lover clubs in Sulawesi and elsewhere in Indonesia. Clarification of any aspect of its natural history might also provide information of high management value.

Citation: Tasirin, J., Dinets, V., Meijaard, E., Brodie, J., Nijman, V., Loffeld, T.A.C., Hilser, H., Shepherd, C., Seymour, A.S. & Duckworth, J.W. 2015. Macrogalidia musschenbroekii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12592A45198901. . Downloaded on 02 December 2015.
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