Paguma larvata 

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Paguma larvata (C.E.H. Smith, 1827)
Common Name(s):
English Masked Palm Civet, Gem-faced Civet, Himalayan Palm Civet
Gulo larvatus C.E.H. Smith, 1827
Taxonomic Notes: Corbet and Hill (1992) listed six subspecies, reflecting the striking morphological variation, with strong geographical basis, in this species.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Duckworth, J.W., Timmins, R.J., Chutipong, W., Choudhury, A., Mathai, J., Willcox, D.H.A., Ghimirey, Y., Chan, B. & Ross, J.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J.
Contributor(s): Kanchanasaka, B., Dahal, S., Wilting, A. & Wozencraft, C, Brodie, J.
Masked Palm Civet is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, evident large population, occurrence in many protected areas, tolerance to some degree of habitat modification (even to very heavy fragmentation and degradation in at least the north-eastern parts of its range), large proportion of population in hill forest away from the level lowlands where deforestation rates are fastest, and persistence in areas with heavy habitat degradation and hunting. Thus, it is unlikely to be declining at the rate required to qualify for listing even as Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Masked Palm Civet has one of the widest geographic ranges of any civet. It occurs in mainland China south-east of a line roughly along Beijing, Hebei, Sichuan and north-central Yunnan provinces; on Hainan, Hong Kong and Taiwan; west along the Himalayas and their southern foothills to Pakistan; in the hill ranges of North-east India; almost throughout mainland South-east Asia; and on Sumatra, Borneo, the Andaman Islands, and a number of small islands such as Koh Yao (9°00´N, 98°00´E) off Thailand and Rutland (11°25´N, 92°40´E) off India (Pocock 1939, Duckworth 1997, Wang 2003, Meiri 2005, Holden 2006, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Holden and Neang 2009, Patou et al. 2009, Choudhury 2013, Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3, Bennett 2014, Chutipong et al. 2014). It occurs throughout North-east India excepting potentially Tripura, where there are records only from the north (Choudhury 2013). Bangladesh is often omitted from the range (e.g., Patou et al. 2009) but it occurs in the evergreen forests of the north-east (e.g., Al-Razi et al. 2014). Although conventionally the southern half of Borneo is omitted from the range (e.g., Patou et al. 2009), a recent collation traced many reports from this area (Semiadi et al. in prep.); these have not, however, been independently validated. There seems to be a distribution gap or at least great scarcity in the deciduous-dominated plains of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand (Duckworth 1997, Schank et al. 2009, Gray et al. 2014a, Chutipong et al. 2014). It has been said to occur in Singapore but, whilst animals have been recorded at large on the island, there is no evidence that there has ever been a native population there (Chua et al. 2012). Brooks and Dutson (1994) spotlit a single individual in the Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, Java, Indonesia; however, this distinctive and readily detected species has not otherwise been recorded wild on the island; it is traded in some numbers there (Nijman et al. 2014), so this was presumably a released or escaped import. It has been introduced to Japan, where it is now widespread (Masuda et al. 2010).

The altitudinal use seems to vary across its range. It perhaps occurs mainly or solely in hills and mountains in some areas, e.g., Lao PDR (Duckworth 1997), non-Sundaic Thailand (Chutipong et al. 2014), Cambodia (Holden and Neang 2009) and Borneo (Belden et al. 2014). J. Ross and A.J. Hearn (pers. comm. 2014), in extensive camera-trapping across Sabah, Borneo (see, e.g., Ross et al. 2013), recorded Masked Palm Civet from 59 (out of roughly 500) camera-trap stations; 76% of these 59 stations are above 500 m, a much higher proportion than that of all stations. The lowest elevation they have detected it is 208 m (but in a fairly rugged area), despite substantial survey effort down to sea level. J. Brodie et al. (pers. comm. 2015), in camera trapping across Sarawak and Sabah, recorded Masked Palm Civet over 230 to 1,700 m a.s.l., also despite extensive sampling at lower elevations. In a collation of records across Borneo (produced by the Borneo Carnivore Symposium 2011) the precisely located records show a clear association with hilly terrain. The extent to which this is a real association of the animal, rather than a pattern of survey is difficult to tell (A. Wilting pers. comm. 2013). In some other regions, Masked Palm Civet certainly occurs down to the lowlands, e.g. Hong Kong (almost to sea-level, although perhaps not in plains lowlands; Bosco P.L. Chan pers. comm. 2014), Myanmar (270 m; Than Zaw et al. 2008), Vietnam (150 m; Roberton 2007), North-east India (90 m; Choudhury 2013) and Sumatra (100 m; Holden 2006). For most lowland records, the published information does not, however, indicate how common is the species at such altitudes, how rugged is the terrain where it occurs in the lowlands, and how far were the records from hill or mountain areas. There seem to be few records explicitly from lowland gentle terrain from anywhere in its South-east Asian range. In North-east India it has been recorded up to 2,700 m (Choudhury 2013), in Nepal up to 2,500 m (Y. Ghimirey per. comm. 2014), and in Sumatra up to 2,400 m (Holden 2006).
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; China; India (Andaman Is.); Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak); Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Viet Nam
Additional data:
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:NoLower elevation limit (metres):20
Upper elevation limit (metres):2700
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Masked Palm Civet is widely camera-trapped across its range and in many evergreen biomes it is amongst the more commonly recorded small carnivores (e.g. Holden 2006, Long and Minh 2006, Datta et al. 2008, Johnson et al. 2009, Mathai et al. 2010, Matsubayashi et al. 2011, Sathyakumar et al. 2011, Hedges et al. 2013, Gray et al. 2014b, McCarthy and Fuller 2014, Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3). Nonetheless, its semi-arboreal behaviour takes it out of the range of ground-level camera-traps some, perhaps much of the time. Thus, in several areas in both Myanmar and Thailand where significant camera-trapping effort did not photograph the species, it was found by other methods (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Chutipong et al. 2014). Similarly, in Hainan (China) it is never camera-trapped in contrast to the convincing local opinion that it is as common there as is Common Palm Civet (Bosco P.L. Chan per. comm. 2014). Its degree of arboreality hinders assessing its local status by camera-trapping. The species is perhaps less common where it has been heavily hunted for the commercial food trade in southern China and in parts of Viet Nam, but still remains widespread and locally common in these areas (Lau et al. 2010, M.W.N. Lau pers. comm. 2006, Bosco P.L. Chan pers. comm. 2014, D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2014). Further north in China it is at least locally common and has been studied in landscapes comprising remnant forest patches mixed with agriculture (e.g. Wang and Fuller 2003, Zhou et al. 2008). The number of recent records in many parts of its range in, or in close proximity to, areas of heavy human activity suggest that its populations remain high within remaining habitat, including largely anthropogenic areas such as Hong Kong (Pei et al. 2010): here it lives even in suburban shrubby patches with groves of mainly exotic trees on retaining walls in residential areas (Bosco P.L. Chan per. comm. 2014). Although it readily uses non-forest habitats, at least in China, there seem to be no records within the southern part of its range far from forest. Thus, the extensive deforestation over much of its range in recent decades is likely to have caused population declines, which can be assumed to be continuing in areas still losing large areas of forest, such as Sumatra (McCarthy and Fuller 2014). Because in South-east Asia this is primarily a species of hill forest, where deforestation rates are much lower than in the level lowlands, its decline rate is likely to be less steep than that of lowland species. Hill forests are, however, still subject to widespread selective logging, and the response of the species to selective logging remains uncertain (see 'Habitats and ecology' section).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Masked Palm Civet occupies a wide range of habitats across its large range. In South-east Asia, most records come from evergreen and semi-evergreen forest, including heavily degraded areas and strips of riverine evergreen forest through deciduous landscapes (Rabinowitz 1991, Ratnam et al. 1995, Heydon and Bulloh 1996, Grassman 1998, Duckworth 1997, Azlan 2003, Roberton 2007, Chutipong et al. 2014). In India, as well as evergreen forests, it also uses the deciduous Sal Shorea robusta forests of the Siwalik range in the western Himalayan foothills (D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014). It is commonly found in limestone forest in Guangxi, China (Bosco P.L. Chan per. comm. 2014). In central south-eastern China it uses farmland-dominated landscapes interspersed with remnant forest (e.g. Wang and Fuller 2003, Zhou et al. 2008); in Hong Kong where hunting pressure is very low, it even lives in residential area with remnant patches of natural vegetation (Bosco P.L. Chan per. comm. 2014). Survey has been too poor to determine the extent to which (if at all) such non-forest areas are used in South-east Asia. Emerging results from Malaysian Borneo suggest that local status is negatively affected by recent logging, although there is some recovery in forest logged more than 10 years previously (Brodie et al. 2014). In camera-trapping surveys across Sarawak and Sabah, J. Brodie et al. (pers. comm. 2014) found Masked Palm Civet at 23 of 96 (24%) unlogged camera-trap stations, but at only four of 57 (7%) logged ones; all four of the logged stations were in the Hose Mountains of Sarawak, a remote and little-accessed area where logging had taken place more than a decade ago. In Sabah, the species was recorded in Danum Valley but not in adjacent oil palm plantation (Yue et al. in press). It was not recorded in a camera-trap survey of two lowland oil palm plantations in central Sumatra (Jennings et al. 2015) or in another plantation-focused survey in Jambi province, Sumatra (Maddox et al. 2007), although it is possible it was naturally absent from the region of each Sumatran survey.

Two published radio-telemetry studies on this species found, in Thailand, a home-range of 5.9 km² for an adult male (Grassman 1998) and 3.7 km² for an adult female (Rabinowitz 1991). Both studies showed that Masked Palm Civet is nocturnal with occasional day-time activity; this finding based on only two individuals is probably applicable to the species as a whole, based on field observations (e.g. Duckworth 1997) and camera-trapping (e.g. Than Zaw et al. 2008).

Up to four young can be born per litter, with two breeding seasons per year (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Based on field observations and camera-trap records, the species sometimes travels and forages in duos, or even groups (Bosco P.L. Chan per. comm. 2014). Lifespan in captivity is up to 15 years (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Wang and Fuller (2001) conducted a study on the ecology of this species in rural agricultural habitat near the village of Taohong in northern Jiangxi province, south-eastern China, from April 1993 to November 1994, and found that it ate some mammals and insects, but mostly fruit. Further investigations confirm its generalist diet, using whatever is the most readily available food at any given season, be it animal or plant (e.g. Zhou et al. 2008).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Generation Length (years):8
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: In a study on the dynamics of trade in live wildlife across the Guangxi border between China and Viet Nam during 1993 to 1996, Li and Li (1998) noted that "the volume of trade in Paguma larvata was small, but the percentage of [it] in the restaurants was very large. This suggested that the supply of [this] species in the restaurants was partly from the domestic wildlife trade in China". It is widely farmed in China (Lau et al. 2010) and elsewhere, and used for food throughout its range. SARS is a major issue for this species, causing the trade and sale of it to be banned in order to control the disease, as well as many breeding farms being closed. It is heavily harvested in much of its range for local consumption, particularly in Viet Nam and southern China (Bosco P.L. Chan pers. comm. 2014, D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2014).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Masked Palm Civet is threatened, potentially, by habitat reduction and by overharvest. It is likely that it cannot survive total deforestation, but at least in some parts of its range, it clearly persists in degraded and fragmented forest (albeit at lower apparent abundance, at least in northern Borneo; J. Brodie pers. comm. 2014) and makes ready use of adjacent non-forest habitats such as agriculture. It occurs over a wide altitudinal range including into the upper montane levels. With a large proportion of its population in tropical hill forest, which in South-east Asia is being converted to non-forest use more slowly than is lowland forest, while the species has lost a large proportion of its range a few centuries ago, current rates of loss are relatively low and do not threaten the species except locally. It is a major component of the 'wild' mammal restaurant trade in southern China, but most of the individuals seem to come from farms (e.g., Li and Li 1998, Lau et al. 2010), and is eaten widely elsewhere in its range, notably Viet Nam (D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2014). General mammal hunting is very heavy across parts of its range (such as northern South-east Asia), but because Masked Palm Civet is quite arboreal, and so spends that proportion of its time outside the range of snares and most other traps, it is less exposed to hunting than are the more ground-dwelling small carnivores. Being largely nocturnal, it probably escapes the attentions of dogs and of much opportunistic hunting Thus, it is still detected widely even in heavily snared parts of Viet Nam (Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3), which support among the highest levels of such hunting of anywhere in the species's range, and it remains secure in heavily hunted parts of south China where most other carnivores are now very rare (Lau et al. 2010). Overall, therefore, the level of threat from these factors is assessed as relatively low, despite the likelihood that in some areas (e.g., Viet Nam) they are likely to be causing widespread declines.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Masked Palm Civet occurs in many protected areas across its range. In China, it is listed as Near Threatened (A2cd). It is protected by law in Gansu, China (Li et al, 2000), and in Malaysia (Azlan pers. comm. 2006) but not Thailand (Chutipong et al. 2014) or Nepal (Y. Ghimirey per. comm. 2014). The population of India is listed on CITES Appendix III. Given the lack of major threats, there is no immediate need for conservation interventions. Continued surveillance of trade levels, particularly internationally into southern China, and assessment of the extent to which it is used in civet coffee production (which has the potential for dramatic increase in off-take from the wild) is warranted. A clearer understanding of its adaptability to degradation and fragmentation, which perhaps varies across its range, could help identify if in any parts of its range it might be locally at risk from habitat change.

Citation: Duckworth, J.W., Timmins, R.J., Chutipong, W., Choudhury, A., Mathai, J., Willcox, D.H.A., Ghimirey, Y., Chan, B. & Ross, J. 2016. Paguma larvata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41692A45217601. . Downloaded on 26 September 2018.
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