Viverricula indica 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Viverricula indica
Species Authority: (É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803)
Common Name(s):
English Small Indian Civet, Oriental Civet
French Civette Indienne
Civetta indica É. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1803
Viverricula malaccensis non Gmelin, 1788
Taxonomic Notes: Ten subspecies have been described for Viverricula indica (Corbet and Hill 1992) but there is no recent taxonomic revision. The name malaccensis Gmelin, 1788 was used widely during the twentieth century for this species, but this in fact refers to a composite of animals with no evidence of Viverricula being involved (Pocock 1939). However, malaccensis is still in use in some legal documents into the 21st century.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Choudhury, A., Duckworth, J.W., Timmins, R., Chutipong, W., Willcox, D.H.A., Rahman, H., Ghimirey, Y. & Mudappa, D.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J.
Contributor(s): Diyan, A.A., Ghimire, B. & Kakati, K.
Small Indian Civet is listed as Least Concern because of its wide geographical distribution, wide use of (in some biomes, preference for) degraded and fragmented natural habitat, with evidence from many range states of healthy populations in agricultural/secondary landscapes. It persists in the face of heavy hunting that has wiped out many other ground-dwelling species; while some populations (notably, in Lao PDR and Viet Nam) might be depressed by hunting, this is not to the extent of driving declines (averaged across the whole range) sufficient for categorising the species even as Near Threatened. It is mainly an open-forest and edge species, so has probably benefited from the extensive degradation and fragmentation over the last century of evergreen forest in South-east Asia.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Least Concern (LC)
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Small Indian Civet occurs in Sri Lanka, Pakistan (Indus valley eastwards), most of India (recently confirmed to extend north of the Pir Pinjal, Kashmir), Nepal, south and central China (north to Sichuan and the lower Yangtze, including Hainan and Hong Kong), Taiwan province of China, Bangladesh (North-east, South-east and in the Sundarbans), mainland South-east Asia (almost throughout) and various islands of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Bali, Bawean, Bintan, Kangean, Lombok, Panaitan, and Sumbawa; it should not be assumed to be native to those lying east of Bali) (Roberts 1997, Wang 2003, Than Zaw et al. 2008, Chen et al. 2009, Charoo et al. 2010, Lau et al. 2010, Jennings and Veron 2011, Choudhury 2013, Mudappa 2013, Chutipong et al. 2014, S. Ratnayeke pers. comm. 2007, Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014).

Its origin and current status on Sumatra is unclear: the species is known on the island only from a few records from North Sumatra (named V. malaccensis atchinensis Sody, 1931) and there are no published records from southern Sumatra (although Corbet and Hill [1992] included all of Sumatra in the species' distribution), nor was it found in a trade survey of civets at Medan (Shepherd 2008). This queries its persistence there, given levels of trade in civets in Medan, and the proportion of civets in similar trade in neighbouring Java that are Small Indian Civets (Nijman et al. 2014). It is implausible that it could have been hunted out of Sumatra (given its persistence in today's heavily hunted landscapes of northern South-east Asia and southern China), suggesting the strong possibility that earlier records from Sumatra were of imports. It has been stated to occur in Singapore but there is no evidence of this and it is implausible that it is present but overlooked (Chua et al. 2012). It has been introduced to Madagascar and the Comoros (Goodman 2012), Socotra (Yemen; Pocock 1939) and Unguja, Pemba and Mafia Islands of Tanzania (Pakenham 1984, Kock and Stanley 2009). The current distribution of these introduced populations is poorly known (but is of no significance to the species's conservation).

It occurs from sea-level to 2,500 m (North-east India; Choudhury 2013).
Countries occurrence:
Bangladesh; Bhutan; Cambodia; China; India; Indonesia (Bali, Jawa, Lesser Sunda Is. - Introduced); Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia); Myanmar; Nepal; Pakistan; Sri Lanka; Taiwan, Province of China; Thailand; Viet Nam
Comoros; Madagascar; Tanzania, United Republic of; Yemen (Socotra)
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): 2500
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Small Indian Civet remains widespread and common in India and Sri Lanka (Choudhury 2013, Mudappa 2013, S. Ratnayeke pers. comm. 2007)  and in Bangladesh, where it has recently been camera-trapped in the North-east, South-east and in the Sundarbans' largest mangroves (Feeroz et al. 2011, 2012; Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014). Its population status in South-east Asia is less well known than that of some other sympatric small carnivores, because recent survey efforts have mostly not been appropriate for assessing the species. This is well shown by records from Thailand, where in several survey areas with intensive coverage, camera-trapping failed to find the species yet there were incidental records by other methods (Chutipong et al. 2014). Similarly, in Myanmar, Su Su (2005) found that it was the second most common species of small carnivore recorded in Hlawga Wildlife Park in Myanmar, a secondary small isolate of semi-natural habitat in the outskirts of Yangon, a former capital city, subject to little-controlled poaching and other forms of encroachment, where few other species of small carnivore persist in significant numbers. Camera-trapping showed that it is also abundant (by far the most frequently photographed nocturnal small carnivore) in Alungdaw Kathapa National Park (Thaint Thaint Myo pers. comm. 2007), although intensive camera-trapping for Tiger Panthera tigris a few years earlier at this site had recorded the species only twice. This reflected the focus of the Tiger survey on little-disturbed evergreen forest, a habitat little-used by the species in South-east Asia, rather than the edge, disturbed and secondary areas the focus of the latter survey (Than Zaw et al. 2008). The habitat degradation and hunting patterns of these two sites in Myanmar where the species is common are representative of much of non-Sundaic South-east Asia, and incidental records from various other sites (e.g. Duckworth and Robichaud 2005) imply large populations in total in this region, although it is likely that in at least Viet Nam and Lao PDR populations are somewhat depleted by snaring and other forms of hunting. This is also likely to be true in southern China (sensu Lau et al. 2010; Guangxi, Guangdong and Hainan), an area where most small carnivores are somewhat to greatly depleted; Small Indian Civet remains one of the most widely recorded small carnivores there (Lau et al. 2010). It is also widespread and common on Hong Kong (Pei et al. 2010). The widespread tendency for camera-trap and spotlight surveys to go to the least encroached habitat blocks, with a focus on evergreen forest, has certainly much reduced the number of recent records of the species from South-east Asia. In Cambodia, where more camera-trapping has taken place in deciduous forest, it is commonly photographed (e.g. Holden & Neang 2009, Schank et al. 2009, Gray et al. 2014). Under-survey of appropriate habitat was suspected to be responsible for the relatively few recent records from Lao PDR (Duckworth et al. 1999) and explains the rather low proportion of camera-trap survey areas in Viet Nam with records (Willcox et al. 2014: Table SOM3; D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2014), and may also have generated earlier remarks such as in Thailand, this species is rather rare (Lekagul and McNeely 1977); in fact, it is common in degraded and open habitats (Chutipong et al. 2014). Similarly, in Java, a survey programme found it in only one area, an agricultural landscape, with no records from forest. There is little information on current status in West Malaysia and Sumatra; these are being dominated, pre-clearance, by evergreen forest would be expected to hold small populations, although these might have increased with recent major deforestation. A collation of incidental records from West Malaysia (Low 2011) had none of this species, despite many of other species from road-sides and degraded areas, from where come many records elsewhere in the species' range. A trade survey of civets at Medan, Sumatra, found none (Shepherd 2008), implying only small, at most, wild populations there.

Considering trends of habitat change, potentially populations will have increased with the degradation and fragmentation of closed evergreen forest across much of the specie's range in recent decades; the ability of the species to take advantage of this will have been offset, in some parts of its range, notably northern South-east Asia and southern China, by increased trade driven-hunting, especially using non-selective methods. Overall the population is likely to be relatively stable.
Current Population Trend: Stable
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals: No
Extreme fluctuations: No Population severely fragmented: No
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Small Indian Civet has been recorded in a wide range of habitats, particularly in degraded and fragmented landscapes (including rainforest fragments, tea and coffee plantations; Mudappa et al. 2007), and in less encroached areas, in deciduous forest, bushland, grassland, riverine habitats, marshes (Holden and Neang 2009), and inactive Melaleuca plantations on peat soil in the Mekong Delta, Viet Nam (D.H.A. Willcox pers. comm. 2014). Camera-trapping in Bangladesh found the species across a large array of suitable habitat, from mangrove to semi-evergreen, evergreen and deciduous forest to mixed bamboo vegetation and shrubs (Feeroz et al. 2011, 2012, Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2014, Abu Abdullay Diyan pers. comm. 2014). It occurs around human habitation in towns and villages in North-east India (Choudhury 2013) but in southern India it is less common in such areas than is Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (D. Mudappa pers. comm. 2014). Records certainly from deep within closed-canopy evergreen forest are rare (but do occur; e.g. Naniwadekar et al. 2013), both in India and South-east Asia (Duckworth 1997; Than Zaw et al.2008; Mudappa 2002, 2013; Chutipong et al. 2014). Although coarse GIS analysis of record locations against habitat can suggest wide occurrence in evergreen forest, a detailed check of exact record locations in Thailand in evergreen forest biomes showed that they were mostly outside forest, in adjacent cleared or naturally open areas; those within evergreen forest were in small patches and strips amid deciduous or degraded habitat, such as riverine gallery forest, or were in the late dry season when adjoining deciduous forest had been heavily burnt (Chutipong et al. 2014). Similarly, records in Virachey National Park, northern Cambodia (WWF unpublished data), which at a landscape scale looks like a massive block of semi-evergreen forest/evergreen forest, are clearly associated with small pockets of grassland and somewhat open-canopy deciduous forest (R.J. Timmins pers. comm. 2014). Finally, in the Western Ghats, India, it was more frequent in rainforest fragments than in the relatively undisturbed, large, contiguous tract of rainforest in Kalakad–Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve (Mudappa et al. 2007). By contrast, it is evidently widespread in little-encroached deciduous forests (e.g., Pillay 2009, Chutipong et al. 2014, Gray et al. 2014) and in some semi-evergreen forests (e.g. Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, India; Kalle et al. 2013). It might be one of few civets that is not forest-dependent at some level: where hunting levels are low, it is common in various areas almost entirely deforested, notably Hong Kong (Pei et al. 2002, Suen 2002) and there are many other records from such areas - mindful of the very little survey that occurs within them - elsewhere in its range (e.g., Lekagul and McNeely 1977, Rode-Margono et al. 2014).

This species is nocturnal and is active mostly on the ground (Mudappa 2002). An adult male radio-tracked in Thailand had a home range of 3.1 km² (Rabinowitz, 1991). In Thailand, it may live in drains, outhouses, and roofs, eating rats, mice, birds, snakes, fruit, roots, and carrion (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). It has litters of 3-5, and the life-span (in captivity) is 8-9 years (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). Wang and Fuller (2001) studied this species in a rural agricultural area near the village of Taohong in northern Jiangxi Province, south-eastern China, from April 1993 to November 1994. Analysis of faeces between June 1992 and November 1994 found that this species ate mostly mammals, with moderate amounts of insects and fruits.
Systems: Terrestrial
Generation Length (years): 4.5
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Small Indian Civet is widely used, for various reasons. There has been heavy harvest for skins in China (Lau et al. 2010). For the production of its perineal gland secretion, 'civet' musk, a raw ingredient in the perfume, medicine and other industries, large numbers are kept in India and, increasingly, Thailand; these are sourced almost entirely from the wild (e.g., Balakrishnan and Sreedevi 2007, Chutipong et al. 2014). A large part of its range - North-east India, southern China and northern South-east Asia - has heavy to very heavy mammal hunting using, in great part, non-selective techniques such as snaring, for domestic consumption and, in many areas, sale into the urban and international wildlife trade. This species is perhaps somewhat insulated from the heaviest pressures because such activities are mostly within closed evergreen forest, only a marginal habitat of this species.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Small Indian Civet is widely used, for various reasons. There has been heavy harvest for skins in China (Lau et al. 2010) and probably to some extent elsewhere. For the production of its perineal gland secretion, 'civet' musk, a raw ingredient in the perfume, medicine and other industries, large numbers are kept in India and, increasingly, Thailand; these are sourced almost entirely from the wild (e.g., Balakrishnan and Sreedevi 2007, Chutipong et al. 2014). It is the second most commonly traded civet in Java, Indonesia, where there is a current craze for keeping civets at pets, with the mushrooming of civet-'lovers' clubs; numbers in this trade are however dwarfed by those of Common Palm Civet, with almost 20 times as many of the latter seen (Nijman et al. 2014). While hunting (including the use of traps for civets) seems to be rare in some of its range, such as Java (Rode-Margono et al. 2014), a large part of its range - North-east India, southern China and northern South-east Asia - has heavy to very heavy mammal hunting using, in great part, non-selective techniques such as snaring, for domestic consumption and, in many areas, sale into the urban and international wildlife trade. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, local people kill Small Indian Civets (for meat consumption) with poison (S. Chakma per H. Rahman pers. comm. 2014). The demand for civet meat in Chinese and Viet Namese markets has increased rapidly since the 1980s (Bell et al. 2004) and remains high. This species is perhaps somewhat insulated from the heaviest pressures because such activities are mostly within closed evergreen forest, only a marginal habitat of this species. On the other hand, its use of marginal and degraded habitats means it might suffer more than do the more closed-forest associated small carnivores from retaliatory killing (as a pest of poultry), secondary accumulation of rodenticides (heavily used in some parts of its range) and killing by domestic dogs. It is reasonably clear that, in aggregate, these threats are not causing steep declines in India, Myanmar and southern China (where it remains common even though most other small carnivores are severely depleted (Lau et al. 2010); the situation is less clear in northern South-east Asia, where hunting is highest, because of the species' limited occurrence in closed evergreen forest, which hosts the majority of wildlife survey and research. It is clearly widespread even in Viet Nam and Lao PDR, but populations there are probably well below what they would be in the absence of hunting.

Forest loss and degradation are unlikely to be, overall, a threat to this species; the opening-up of large areas of closed-canopy old-growth evergreen forest in South-east Asia has probably increased the total habitat availability, more than offsetting the losses from conversion of open deciduous forest to habitats supporting lower densities of this species (such forests are being lost rapidly, at present, in Cambodia and perhaps Myanmar). Its use of agriculture-dominated landscapes, while common, is poorly understood: it is quite plausible that the rapid intensification of field crop systems in Java, Thailand, Vietnam, China and, increasingly, Lao PDR and Cambodia will be reducing habitat suitability over large areas, particularly through loss of uncultivated patches: daytime resting sites in Hlawga Park, Myanmar, were typically at ground level in dense shrubby tangles (Su Su and Sale 2007); and such patches are also likely to increase food supply over that in crop monoculture.

In sum, while further information would be useful in elaborating the detail of the response to the various potential threats facing this species, its continued abundance in most of its range indicates that it is well able to survive the current levels of threats.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is totally protected in Myanmar under the Wildlife Act of 1994 (Su Su 2005) and in Bangladesh under the Wildlife Act 2012 (Hasan Rahman pers. comm. 2015). It is protected in Thailand, with captive breeding allowed (Chutipong et al. 2014). It is listed on Category II of the China Wildlife Protection Law (1988) (Li et al. 2000) and as ‘Vulnerable’ in the China Red List (Wang and Xie 2004). It is listed on CITES Appendix III by India. It has been recorded in many protected areas across its range. There is no harvest management plan; while this is probably not problematic at present, if agricultural intensification does reduce habitat suitability and if trade demand for 'civet' remains high, because this is a species living primarily in areas with some to heavy human use, it is possible that off-take might drive declines in the future and that a harvest management plan (or captive breeding to supply 'civet' production units) would be warranted.

Citation: Choudhury, A., Duckworth, J.W., Timmins, R., Chutipong, W., Willcox, D.H.A., Rahman, H., Ghimirey, Y. & Mudappa, D. 2015. Viverricula indica. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T41710A45220632. . Downloaded on 29 November 2015.
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