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Paradoxurus zeylonensis 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Paradoxurus zeylonensis
Species Authority: (Pallas, 1778)
Common Name(s):
English Golden Palm Civet, Sri Lanka Brown Palm Civet, Golden Wet-Zone Palm Civet, Golden Dry-Zone Palm Civet, Sri Lanka Mountain Palm Civet, Sri Lankan Golden Striped-backed Palm Civet
Paradoxurus aureus F. Cuvier, 1822
Paradoxurus montanus Kelaart, 1852
Paradoxurus stenocephalus Groves, Rajapaksha & Manemandra-Arachchi, 2009
Viverra zeylonensis Pallas, 1778
Taxonomic Notes: Groves et al. (2009) proposed, on the basis of morphology, that there are at least three, probably four, species of golden palm civet, and that the name in general use for them, as a single species, Paradoxurus zeylonensis (Pallas, 1778), did not in fact refer to any of their proposed golden palm civets, for which they used the names Paradoxurus aureus F. Cuvier, 1822; P. montanus Kelaart, 1852; and P. stenocephalus Groves, Rajapaksha & Manemandra-Arachchi, 2009. However, a re-examination, including many of the same specimens, concluded that the undoubted wide morphological variation was individual and perhaps age-based, and thus not of taxonomic significance, and a genetic analysis lent no support to the suggestion of multiple species (Veron et al. 2015). Moreover, the abandonment of the name Paradoxurus zeylonensis was considered to be unnecessary (Veron et al. 2015). Hence, only one species, Golden Palm Civet Paradoxurus zeylonensis, is recognised here.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-04-18
Assessor(s): Duckworth, J.W., Mudappa, D., Pethiyagoda, R., Woolgar, J., de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. & Hall, J.
Reviewer(s): Hoffmann, M.
Contributor(s): Nekaris, K.A.I. , Dissanayake, R., Fernando, P., Yonzon, P., Wozencraft, C, Weerasinghe, N. & Hettige, U.
Golden Palm Civet is listed as Least Concern because it is implausible that it meets any Red List criterion even at the level of Near Threatened. Despite earlier concerns, its extent of occurrence exceeds 20,000 km² (probably being closer to 40,000 km²), its distribution is not severely fragmented and includes several dozen locations, and while there is continuing decline in the extent and quality of forest cover in the some regions of Sri Lanka, the effects of this on civet populations are not thought to be severe, especially because the species seems likely to be well adapted to secondary forest, which is expanding rapidly in some areas. This species is certainly not tied in occurrence to old-growth forest and even if it were, the recent and projected forest loss rates in Sri Lanka are insufficient to categorise it even as Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2008 – Vulnerable (VU)
  • 1996 – Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Golden Palm Civet is endemic to Sri Lanka (e.g. Groves et al. 2009). Formerly considered likely to have a small range defined by the persistence of large tracts of natural habitat (e.g. Schreiber et al. 1989), the recently collected skulls in the National Museum and Colombo University collections reported by Groves et al. (2009), and other recent records, suggest a wide range that includes almost the whole country, covering at least 40,000 km². Yapa and Ratnavira (2013) considered Golden Palm Civet to comprise four species each with limited distribution. Combining these ranges, the single species seems to be more or less contiguous in its distribution across wet, intermediate and dry zones, with an isolated population in Wilpattu National Park. Its range has doubtless been under-reported because it is nocturnal and significantly arboreal, the attributes which led to significant underestimation of the range and abundance of its close relative Brown Palm Civet P. jerdoni (Rajamani et al. 2002, Bhosale et al. 2013). The number of forest fragments in which the species occurs, although not quantified, probably exceeds 50 (R. Pethiyagoda pers. comm. 2015).

The species occurs from sea level to high-elevation tropical montane cloud forest in the Central and Knuckles hills, to at least 2,000 m (Groves et al. 2009).
Countries occurrence:
Sri Lanka
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:40000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Phillips (1984), based largely on observations from several decades earlier, considered Golden Palm Civet to be not uncommon although distributed patchily, both in the highlands and in the low country, particularly in the highlands around Kandy and in the Dimbulla and Dickoya districts of the Central Province. D.P. Wijesinghe (in litt. 1987 to Schreiber et al. 1989) considered it to be still widely distributed on the island, but to be more numerous in the wet zone than in the dry zone; this was not based on quantitative abundance data. J. Woolgar (pers. comm. 2015) recently observed the species in five localities, only one of which (Sinharaja) was in the wet zone (the others being a site close to the international airport, Sigiriya, Udawalawe, and Yala). While studying lorises, K.A.I. Nekaris (pers. comm. 2014) recorded it widely and commonly. There are many recent records from the Sinharaja Forest area, where it is evidently common; other areas of comparable habitat have received much less observer effort. It is also readily seen on the northern side of Knuckles World Heritage Nature Reserve, at Pitawala Patana (N. Weerasinghe pers. comm. 2015). It is easily seen by wildlife-watching visitors to the island, at various sites (J. Hall pers. comm. 2015, J. Woolgar pers. comm. 2015).

The current population trend cannot well be predicted. Old-growth forest habitat is declining somewhat, through conversion, degradation and fragmentation, whereas secondary forest is increasing, rapidly in some areas (R. Pethiyagoda pers. comm. 2015); with no clarity on how the species responds to these factors, effects on populations are unknown.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Golden Palm Civet is found in lowland rain forest, evergreen mountain forests (including cloud forest and short-stature forests; U. Hettige pers. comm. 2015), dense monsoon forest (e.g., at Wilpattu), and in the dry zone generally (Groves et al. 2009). Whether it occurs in the southern and eastern thorn scrub forests in the more arid parts of the dry zone is unclear; these have received minimal survey and research effort for nocturnal mammals (G. de Silva Wijeyeratne pers. comm. 2015); U. Hettige (pers. comm. 2015) has not seen it in such habitat.

It occurs in old-growth forest, but also widely outside it, in degraded, fragmented and secondary areas. Many records in non-forest habitats are close to old-growth forest, but J. Woolgar (pers. comm. 2015) has recorded it in five localities outside protected areas, at least one of which (in a very small area of fragmented forest near busy roads, about an hour's drive from the international airport) was over 10 km from old-growth forest. His other sighting localities included predominantly agricultural landscapes and areas in proximity to human settlement. It has also been recorded on or among houses, close to forest, at the northern side of Knuckles World Heritage Nature Reserve, at Pitawala Patana (N. Weerasinghe pers. comm. 2015). At the busy archaeological site of Sigiriya, G. de Silva Wijeyeratne (pers. comm. 2015) observed one at dusk above the moat and road beside it; by day this area is busy with people and vehicles. It readily uses home gardens where there are tall trees (U. Hettige pers. comm. 2015), but does not seem to have been recorded in urban areas; on Sri Lanka, these areas are occupied by the related Common Palm Civet P. hermaphroditus (Schreiber et al. 1989, G. de Silva Wijeyeratne pers. comm. 2015, P. Fernando pers. comm. 2015). Whether populations could survive in the long term in landscapes where forest is confined to small, secondary patches is not clear, even though such areas are readily used in today's landscape. As a close evolutionary relative of Brown Palm Civet P. jerdoni (Veron et al. 2015), it is plausible that Golden Palm Civet will be found to occur widely in forest that has long been fragmented, but not to survive total deforestation.

Like Brown Palm Civet, it is largely arboreal and nocturnal; its diet consists of berries and larger fruits, invertebrates, and a wide range of small vertebrates (Pocock 1939, Yapa and Ratnavira 2013). Generally solitary, aggregations can occur at fruiting trees (Yapa and Ratnavira 2013). It is considerably more arboreal than is Common Palm Civet and at two localities animals were watched moving along telephone wires (J. Woolgar pers. comm. 2015).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):8.8
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Although some animals are hunted, and apparently consumed locally, such events are opportunistic and, overall, rare; no specific use of the species has been documented or is yet likely to exist. Related species in some other parts of tropical Asia are being captured in large numbers for use in civet-coffee production; it is unlikely that this will happen in Sri Lanka (R. Pethiyagoda pers. comm. 2015).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The extent to which Golden Palm Civet populations can be supported by secondary forest and non-forest habitats is unknown, hindering assessment of the level of threat from deforestation and degradation. Its tolerance of fragmentation is evidently fairly high. There a relatively large number of recent sight records in areas where forest remains only as heavily degraded isolates. This indicates that it would be alarmist to consider the species highly affected by reduction of forest quality (other than outright landscape-scale clearance). Although lowland forest has been largely cleared from the wet zone, recent forest loss rates, in all zones, have been much lower.

Golden Palm Civet has been said to be trapped intentionally for its meat in some areas, with its flesh considered a delicacy (Schreiber et al. 1989) but off-take is most unlikely to be at levels sufficient to drive population decline; it is likely to be taken only incidentally and overall rather rarely, even in the most remote areas (G. de Silva Wijeyeratne pers. comm. 2015). A number are killed by road vehicles and by dogs (U. Hettige pers. comm. 2015), but these factors are unlikely to threaten populations..

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Golden Palm Civet occurs both inside various protected areas and widely outside them (Groves et al. 2009, G. de Silva Wijeyeratne pers. comm. 2015, J. Woolgar  pers. comm. 2015). The maintenance of these protected areas, which hold many far more threatened species than this civet, is likely to secure its long-term future irrespective of the extent to which it can persist in wholly degraded, fragmented, secondary and/or deforested landscapes. Thus, whilst Schreiber et al. (1989) recommended research into the species’s ecological and conservation requirements to ascertain why it is less successful in adapting to changes of its habitat than is its congener P. hermaphroditus, this is not a priority. Recent records and a comparison with the closely related Brown Palm Civet suggest that while such information would be interesting, Golden Palm Civet may well be found to cope well with fragmentation and even quite heavy degradation, and not need large blocks of old-growth forest. It would thus not be significantly threatened by current habitat trends in Sri Lanka. Secondary forest is expanding rapidly in parts of Sri Lanka, although its value to Golden Palm Civet remains unknown (R. Pethiyagoda pers. comm. 2015). It is even less likely that reduction of hunting pressure should be a conservation focus for the species.

Sinharaja Forest, with many records of the species, is now a well-protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Past calls for the establishment of a breeding colony in captivity, while perhaps sensibly precautionary in the then contemporary state of knowledge, now lack conservation justification, given the species’s wide distribution and evident abundance.

The recent national Red List for Sri Lanka (MoE 2012) considered Golden Palm Civet as three species and categorised each as Endangered or Critically Endangered. However, following the recent taxonomic review of Veron et al. (2015), there is no reason to regard these forms as species or as taxa of any rank; under this taxonomic view separate Red List categorisations are not warranted.

Golden Palm Civet benefits from strict legal protection under Sri Lanka’s Fauna & Flora Protection Ordinance (revised 2009), with sentences of up to five years prescribed for the capture or killing of an individual.

Citation: Duckworth, J.W., Mudappa, D., Pethiyagoda, R., Woolgar, J., de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. & Hall, J. 2016. Paradoxurus zeylonensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41694A45218119. . Downloaded on 01 July 2016.
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