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Viverra zibetha 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Viverra zibetha
Species Authority: Linnaeus, 1758
Common Name(s):
English Large Indian Civet
Viverra tainguensis Sokolov, Rozhnov & Pham Chong Anh, 1997
Taxonomic Notes: Six subspecies have been proposed (Corbet and Hill 1992) but there is no recent taxonomic revision. The validity of the recently described V. tainguensis has been seriously questioned (Walston and Veron 2001) and it is now generally considered a synonym of V. zibetha. No critical re-examination of the holotype, as distinct from the original description has, however, yet been published.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W., Chutipong, W., Ghimirey, Y., Willcox, D.H.A., Rahman, H., Long, B. & Choudhury, A.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J.
Contributor(s): Wozencraft, C, Wang, Y., Kanchanasaka, B. & Dahal, S.
Large Indian Civet's great rarity in parts of South China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong and Hainan) (Lau et al. 2010) and evident declines in Viet Nam and part of Lao PDR, in the context of the known heavy trade in the species as wild meat, led to a Near Threatened listing in 2008. Since then, large populations have been confirmed or can safely be predicted in multiple areas across Thailand, Cambodia and Bangladesh (Chutipong et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014, Rahman and McCarthy 2014, Hassan Rahman pers. comm. 2014), were already known in Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008) and North-east India (Choudhury 2013), and the species's Himalayan range has been documented to extend much further west through Nepal and northern India, including many well protected areas, than was then assessed (Bista et al. 2012). Also, the species seems to be more resilient than was thought at the last assessment: in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, Lao PDR, an area with intensive market-driven snaring for almost two decades, it was the third most widespread small carnivore (in terms of number of camera-trap stations) during surveys in the previous decade (Coudrat et al. 2014). Even in Viet Nam, it was detected by almost half the 13 camera-trap surveys collated by Willcox et al. (2014: Table SOM3). While this is lower than proportions for countries such as Thailand and Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Chutipong et al. 2014), it comes after 15-25 years of intensive trade-driven hunting in most survey areas. This indicates a longer time (than was assumed in 2008) until very low densities will be reached. The overall rate of global decline is now inferred to be much lower (and to have been so in 2008), insufficient to warrant categorisation even as Near Threatened. Even though, as a ground-dwelling species, it is exposed to heavy market-driven hunting pressure using non-selective methods in parts of its range (Lao PDR and Viet Nam; likely to intensify, on current trends, in Cambodia and Myanmar in particular), the population in the area where major declines have occurred or are in progress is much smaller than that in which the species remains common, meaning that the overall hunting-driven global decline rate is low. It also tolerates considerable habitat modification (although in the east of its range this is less apparent, because the most degraded areas are amongst the most heavily hunted, so the species is absent through the latter factor). Currently, region-wide habitat conversion is sufficiently high in the level lowlands to threaten ground-dwelling civets (e.g., Large-spotted Civet), but Large Indian Civet has a wide altitudinal range, with large populations in the hills and mountains. Therefore, habitat loss and fragmentation rates are also not sufficient to drive rapid declines. In sum, even the combined effects of hunting and habitat change are not considered to be resulting in decline rates sufficient to maintain the former categorisation as Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2015 – Near Threatened (NT)
  • 2008 – Near Threatened (NT)
  • 1996 – Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Large Indian Civet occurs across the southern Himalaya Terai from the Nandhour region, India, east through Nepal and Bhutan, locally in southern China, and widely in Bangladesh (north-east, south-east, middle and Sundarbans), North-east India and mainland South-east Asia including peninsular Malaysia (Duckworth 1997, Azlan 2003, Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Feeroz et al. 2011, 2012, Jennings and Veron 2011, Bista et al. 2012, Choudhury 2013, Tempa et al. 2013, Chutipong et al. 2014, Ghimirey and Acharya 2014, Gray et al. 2014a, Rahman and McCarthy 2014, Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3). In China, it has been recorded from the provinces of Anhui, Shaanxi, Chongqing, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Xizang, Guangxi, Gunagdong, Hainan, Fujian, Zhejang, and Jiangsu (Wang 2003), but is perhaps now extirpated from some or even most of these (e.g., Lau et al. 2010) although it still occurs at least locally in the country (e.g., Wen et al. 2014). Singapore is also typically included in the range, and animals have certainly occurred in a wild state there, but Chua et al. (2012) queried, given historical statements of large trade in the species into Singapore in the past, whether it is native to the island. It has been introduced to the Andaman Islands, India (Lever 1985).

Ghimirey and Acharya (2014) highlighted the confusing and inconsistent treatment of this species's western range limit in various sources. A specimen-based claim from west of the known global distribution, from Himachal Pradesh, India (Archana et al. 2000) in fact refers to a palm civet (Bista et al. 2012).

It occurs down to sea-level in some areas, and to 2,420 m in Nepal (Appel et al. 2013) and to 3,080 m in India (Khatiwara and Srivastava 2014).
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; 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:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):3080
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Large Indian Civet lives at a naturally fairly high density for a carnivorous animal and was almost universally considered common by historical collectors (Pocock 1939). It remains common in much of its range and is often among the most commonly encountered small carnivores in camera-trap surveys, in Cambodia (e.g. Gray et al. 2014a), Lao PDR (Gray et al. 2014b), Thailand (Chutipong et al. 2014), Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008), north-east Bangladesh (Rahman and McCarthy 2014) and Nepal (Babu Ram Lamichhane pers. comm. 2014); it is perhaps less commonly encountered in Malaysia, the southern extremity of its range (see Kawanishi and Sunquist 2004, Low 2011, Hedges et al. 2013) and in the western extent, in the Indian terai (Bista et al. 2012). It is still common over much of North-east India (Choudhury 2013) and Bangladesh (Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014), and judging by recent locality records, Nepal (Ghimirey and Acharya 2014). Whilst it was formerly one of the most commonly recorded civets in Viet Nam (Roberton 2007), it is by no means ubiquitous in recent camera-trap surveys (Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3), suggesting recent decline there. Unquestionable is the large population decrease in southern China (Guangxi, Guangdong, Hong Kong and Hainan), where it has become effectively extinct over large areas (Lau et al. 2010). Few other parts of the range are as severely affected by habitat fragmentation and degradation coupled with hunting, but it is likely that populations are widely reduced in the most heavily hunted other parts of its range, particularly where habitat has been heavily fragmented, e.g. much of Viet Nam, lowland Lao PDR and perhaps northern Thailand (although this remains meaningfully unsurveyed; Chutipong et al. 2014). So far, the proportion of the range where major declines have occurred or are in progress is much smaller than that in which the species remains common, meaning that the overall global decline rate is low. The decline is likely to intensify with, on current trends, increased market-driven hunting, using non-selective methods, in Cambodia and Myanmar in particular; but the species's use of rugged hill forest, where the effects of such hunting are slower than in gentle terrain, and its large extent of occurrence in well-protected parts of India and Nepal will mean that overall the global population decline will remain much shallower in the next 10 years or so than for the related Large-spotted Civet Viverra megaspila.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Large Indian Civet uses a wide variety of wooded habitats, both evergreen and deciduous, and primary and degraded. It has been recorded in primary forest (both evergreen and deciduous), secondary and degraded forest, scrubland and plantations (including those of tea) (Duckworth 1997, Azlan 2003, Jennings and Veron 2011, Choudhury 2013, Chutipong et al. 2014). In the Sundarbans, Bangladesh, it uses mangroves as well as moist deciduous forest and mixed bamboo vegetation (Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014) and there are records from Melaleuca cajupti-dominated peat swamp forest in Viet Nam (Nguyen et al. 2004). It perhaps has even wider habitat use, Lekagul and McNeely (1977) indicated it was common around human settlements, and while hunting is probably too heavy in most of South-east Asia for this now to be so, recently one was found in a city park of Dhaka, Bangladesh (Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014). There are several recent records in Nepal from the settled Kathmandu valley (Ghimirey and Acharya 2014), but all locations are connected to, or no more than 1-2, maximum 3, km from, large tracts of native forest, so plausibly involve roaming forest-based animals; there is no evidence of animals living independent of forest there (Y. Ghimirey pers. comm. 2014). Four animals radio-tracked by Simcharoen et al. (1999) in the Khao Nang Rum area of Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand (one adult male, two adult females and one sub-adult female) had home-ranges of 8.8, 3.6, 6.9 and 2.7 km², respectively. These animals were tracked for 13, 14, 8 and 3 months, respectively, and used evergreen forest much less than deciduous forest: 10%, 49%, 9% and 13%, respectively. Rabinowitz (1991) tracked one animal in the same area for seven months, which used evergreen forests in larger proportion (62%) than deciduous forests (mixed deciduous and dry dipterocarp). In sum, individual Large Indian Civets seem to vary considerably in habitat use.

It has been recorded up to 2,420 m in Nepal (Appel et al. 2013), to 3,080 m in India (Khatiwara and Srivastava 2014), but in South-east Asia perhaps only to at least 1,800 m (Jennings and Veron 2011).

It is solitary and nocturnal although there are occasional day-time records of active animals (e.g. Than Zaw et al. 2008, Gray et al. 2014b) and it is usually active on the ground (Lekagul and McNeely 1977, Duckworth 1997). Its diet consists of a wide range of animals, including fish, birds, lizards, frogs, insects, scorpions (and other arthropods), and crabs, as well as poultry and rubbish (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). It is believed to breed throughout the year, with two litters per year, and two to four young per litter (Lekagul and McNeely 1977).
Generation Length (years):6
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Many Large Indian Civets are taken (particularly, in Lao PDR and Viet Nam, by snaring) for food, both for sale in local markets and for sale in urban and international markets. In northern South-east Asia the vat majority of the harvest goes for luxury consumption in urban Viet Nam and China (D.H.A. Willcox per. comm. 2014). In North-east India, it is occasionally sold in local markets of Nagaland and hill districts of Manipur (A.U. Choudhury pers. comm.. 2014). Another use is now minor by comparison with hunting for food: like Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica and African Civet Civettictis civetta, but to a generally much lesser extent, Large Indian Civet has been used as a source of civetone, an oil-like substance secreted by the perineal gland used by the animal for territorial marking.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Hunting, mostly for food but to a lesser extent for scent glands, is the main threat to this species in South-east Asia and probably almost throughout its range. There has been an increased demand for civet meat in Chinese and Viet Namese markets (Bell et al. 2004, Lynam et al. 2005). Ground-living small carnivores are exposed to high levels of non-specific hunting, particularly with snares, throughout most of northern South-east Asia, both inside and outside protected areas (e.g., Coudrat et al. 2014, B. Kanchanasaka pers. comm. 2006). Dogs, which among many ethnic groups in this species's range invariably accompany people entering the forest for any reason, not just on hunting-specific trips, are widely likely to be a problem for this ground-dwelling species, even though it is largely within burrows by day. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, local people kill Large Indian Civets (for meat consumption) with poison (S. Chakma per H. Rahman pers. comm. 2014).

Forest conversion to uses such as agriculture has been variably heavy across the species's range, and reduces the potential population of this species, and fragmentation facilitates access by hunters and exacerbates the effects of hunting. Because it has a large range in hill forests on rugged terrain, which have much lower clearance rates than do forests on level lowlands, it has lost a lower proportion of its habitat than has the lowland relative Large-spotted Civet V. megaspila. In most of its range, certainly Viet Nam, Lao PDR and China, hunting is the more pervasive threat because large areas of suitable habitat are now empty of the species or nearly so. By contrast, in the better protected areas of Thailand, Myanmar and widely in its range further west, where the species remains common, habitat is more likely to be limiting. The various recent peri-urban records from Nepal (Kathmandu), albeit all within 1-3 km of native forest, contrast strongly with the situation in today's Lao PDR and Viet Nam, where it is now probably largely restricted to the more remote areas.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is totally protected in Malaysia under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 (Azlan 2003) and in Bangladesh under the Wildlife Conservation and Security Act 2012 (Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014). It is protected in at least Thailand (Chutipong et al. 2014), Viet Nam and Myanmar (GMA Small Carnivore Workshop 2006). China listed it as ‘Endangered’ under criteria A2acd, and it is a Category II protected State species under the China Wildlife Protection Law (1988), because of trapping for food and scent glands (Li et al. 2000). The population of India is listed on CITES Appendix III. It is found in very many protected areas (e.g., Duckworth 1997, Azlan, 2003, Kawanishi and Sunquist, 2004, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Bista et al. 2012, Choudhury 2013, Tempa et al. 2013, Chutipong et al. 2014, Ghimirey and Acharya 2014, Gray et al. 2014a,b, Khatiwara and Srivastava 2014, Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3, Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014). There are some differences between countries in their effectiveness at reducing hunting within protected areas. Those countries which have greater commitment to this have healthier populations of Large Indian Civet whereas some of the South-east Asian countries are losing the species within many of their protected areas (e.g., Couldrat et al. 2014, Chutipong et al. 2014). In the interests of maintaining the species's ancestral range, attention is needed to reducing trade-driven hunting across Lao PDR, Viet Nam and, increasingly, Cambodia.

Citation: Timmins, R.J., Duckworth, J.W., Chutipong, W., Ghimirey, Y., Willcox, D.H.A., Rahman, H., Long, B. & Choudhury, A. 2016. Viverra zibetha. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41709A45220429. . Downloaded on 01 July 2016.
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