Cynogale bennettii 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Viverridae

Scientific Name: Cynogale bennettii
Species Authority: Gray, 1837
Common Name(s):
English Otter Civet, Sunda Otter Civet, Otter-civet
French Civette-loutre De Sumatra
Spanish Cibeta Nutria
Cynogale lowei Pocock, 1933
Taxonomic Notes: Cynogale lowei, known only from the holotype found in Viet Nam in 1926, was considered by Veron et al. (2006) to represent an individual brought in trade from this species' Sundaic range.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered C1 ver 3.1
Year Published: 2015
Date Assessed: 2015-03-03
Assessor(s): Ross, J., Wilting, A., Ngoprasert, D., Loken, B., Hedges, L., Duckworth, J.W., Cheyne, S., Brodie, J., Chutipong, W., Hearn, A., Linkie, M., McCarthy, J., Tantipisanuh, N. & Haidir, I.A.
Reviewer(s): Schipper, J.
Otter Civet is listed as Endangered because of a presumed small and declining population. Based on data in Miettinen et al. (2011), the presumed primary habitat for Otter Civet has been greatly reduced historically and has declined by about 20% over the last two generations (presumed to be 10 years; Pacifici et al. 2013). The remaining habitat is discontinuous, often degraded; and water sources, presumed to be important for the species, are often polluted. As a ground-dwelling species snares will also be a threat. The population is therefore likely to have declined by substantially more than 20% in the last 10 years.

A map of the area of Otter Civet occupancy for Borneo predicted an area of potentially occupied habitat of 261,614 km². Applying the same reasoning regarding habitat suitability, an additional 44,094 km² and 34,999 km² could plausibly be available in Sumatra and the Thai-Malay peninsula, respectively. Despite this relatively large area of suitable habitat, Otter Civet is rarely recorded by camera-trap (or other survey method) in the vast majority of its range, even in areas assumed to be good habitat, for example, the peat swamp forests of Sabangau National Park (Cheyne et al. 2010) or Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary (A.J. Hearn, J. Ross and D.W. Macdonald pers. comm. 2014). A review of small carnivore records from Thailand did not trace any camera-trap records of Otter Civet and no records from any method since 1998; it might be on the verge of national extinction (Chutipong et al. 2014). Records are also infrequent from Peninsular Malaysia (Veron et al. 2006), with apparently only two records since 1990 (M. Gumal pers comm. 2014). As of late 2014, there are no records from Myanmar (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Than Zaw pers. comm. 2014). It has been recorded more frequently in at least two areas of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, both logged lowland forest, with data from one of these areas indicating a breeding population (Wilting et al. 2010, A.J. Hearn and J. Ross pers comm. 2014). However, it is unclear why these two surveys resulted in comparatively high detection rates; surveys in adjacent forest reserves using similar techniques resulted in few records, suggesting that these apparent higher abundances are very localised. Records from Sumatra are also few, although in some areas detections are more frequent than in its mainland range (ZSL Indonesia Programme pers. comm. 2014).

Although Otter Civet seems able to tolerate some forms of habitat disturbance such as logging, it has never been recorded in plantations and its tolerance to each form of habitat disturbance remains unknown. The paucity of records across most of its range, despite intensive and/or long-term camera-trapping in some areas, suggests that it probably exists at very low densities range-wide, although this might vary much. Across its range, average densities might be as low as 1-2 individuals per 100 km² (inferred from very low detection rates in most areas), especially because it is plausible that the distribution is very patchy with large areas where Otter Civet is no longer present, despite suitable habitat and other areas where densities are higher locally. The number of mature individuals is therefore plausibly fewer than 2,500 (equivalent to a total population of around 3,800) indicating (in combination with the suspected decline rate) a categorisation as Endangered under C1. The large uncertainty in this assessment means Vulnerable is similarly plausible: continuation of the 2008 Endangered listing is explicitly precautionary. In some areas, the lack of camera-trap records might reflect inappropriate camera-trap placement; the overall few detections might reflect the rarity of surveys in prime Otter Civet habitat. Should future survey results challenge the key assumptions urging a cautious approach (near-restriction to gentle terrain, predominantly lowland; high sensitivity to conversion, degradation and fragmentation of forested wetlands, to pollution and to hunting; and a generally low density with only highly localised higher densities) the Red List categorisation would need revising. It is likely that it would then meet the criteria for Vulnerable under A2 and A3 (which it comfortably meets at present based on coarse habitat loss rates) and C1.
Previously published Red List assessments:
2008 Endangered (EN)
1996 Endangered (EN)
1994 Endangered (E)
1990 Insufficiently Known (K)
1988 Insufficiently Known (K)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Otter Civet has a Sundaic distribution. It is found in Malaysia (peninsular and Borneo), Indonesia (Sumatra and Borneo), Brunei Darussalam and Thailand. Assuming the sight-record at Kaeng Krachan in the north of peninsula Thailand is valid (Chutipong et al. 2014), the species is likely also to occur in Peninsular Myanmar, although there are no records from Myanmar to date. With no specific search for the species and very little general survey in the relevant parts of the country, this lack of records does not strongly suggest the species’ absence (Than Zaw et al. 2008, Than Zaw pers. comm. 2014). There is a very old record labelled as from Singapore (Meiri 2005) but there is no evidence that this was not a traded specimen, and no other indication that the species has ever occurred in the country (Chua et al. 2012). A 1920s record from northern Viet Nam was assumed by Veron et al. (2006) to have an erroneous provenance. Three subsequent reports from Yunnan province, China, and one from non-Sundaic Thailand, which lent an appearance of mutual corroboration to the Viet Nam locality, are based only on second-hand reports and have not been verified with either specimens or photographs (Schreiber et al. 1989, Veron et al. 2006, Chutipong et al. 2013). Therefore, the species is taken here not to occur outside Sundaic Southeast Asia.

Recent records of Otter Civet from Borneo are from Sarawak (e.g., Belden et al. 2007), Sabah (Wilting et al. 2010, A.J. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2014) and Central Kalimantan (Cheyne et al. 2010). There are also recent records from east-central Sumatra (ZSL Indonesia Programme pers. comm. 2014). As of late 2014, only two recent records were traced from the Thai-Malay peninsula, both from the Endau-Rompin Landscape, Johor, Malaysia: once each in 2012 and 2013 (M. Gumal pers. comm. 2014).

Otter Civet has been recorded at 1,370 m a.s.l. in Bario, Sarawak, but the majority of records are from lowland forest, down to sea-level (Veron et al. 2006, Cheyne et al. in prep.).
Countries occurrence:
Brunei Darussalam; Indonesia (Kalimantan, Sumatera); Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak)
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): No
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): 1370
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Very little is known about Otter Civet population trends and abundance. Sebastian (2005) considered its apparent rarity, deduced from a low detection frequency even in heavily surveyed areas, to be puzzling. It is important to determine whether low detection rates reflect bias in choice of survey areas and/or survey methods, or stem from naturally low population densities. All evidence suggests that it is forest dependent and possibly is dependent on clear and unpolluted water sources; therefore it is reasonable to assume the population is in decline. Although it has been detected in logged forest, population densities are likely to be lower there than in primary forest (see Heydon and Bulloh 1996).
Current Population Trend: Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals: 2490 Continuing decline of mature individuals: Yes
Extreme fluctuations: Unknown Population severely fragmented: No
Continuing decline in subpopulations: Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations: Unknown All individuals in one subpopulation: No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Little is known of Otter Civet habitat and ecology. This species was believed to be confined largely to peat swamp forests, but there are now also records from lowland dipterocarp forest (Sebastian 2005, Cheyne et al. in prep.). It seems to be most strongly associated with lowland primary forest, but it has been recorded in secondary forest, bamboo, and logged forest (Veron et al. 2006, Wilting et al. 2010, A.J. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2014); its long-term persistence in these habitats is unknown (Veron et al. 2006). It has also been recorded in freshwater swamp forest and in limestone forest amid acacia plantation in Bukit Sarang Conservation Area, Sarawak (Belden et al. 2007). It has been recorded at 1,370 m a.s.l. in Bario, Sarawak, but the majority of records are from lowland forest (Veron et al. 2006, Cheyne et al. in prep.). Otter Civet is semi-aquatic (Veron et al. 2006) and is assumed to forage in water for fish, crabs, molluscs, small mammals, and birds (Lekagul and McNeely 1977). It is predominantly nocturnal (Sebastian 2005, Ross et al. in prep. a).
Systems: Terrestrial
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat: Yes
Generation Length (years): 5
Movement patterns: Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: There is no known specific demand for Otter Civet, but because much mammal-hunting in its range uses non-selective techniques, it is likely to be part of the general off-take of wild meat and, like other civets, eaten.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Reduction in primary forest habitat has proceeded very fast throughout the lowland Sundaic region in the last 20 years (e.g., Holmes 2000, BirdLife International 2001, Jepson et al. 2001, McMorrow and Talip 2001, Lambert and Collar 2002, Kinnaird et al. 2003, Curran et al. 2004, Fuller 2004, Eames et al. 2005, Miettinen et al. 2011, Stibig et al. 2014). This has probably reduced Otter Civet populations by at least the rate of forest loss. Silting and general pollution of waterways associated with the logging of forests and chemical pollution from activities such as gold mining may also be disproportionally detrimental to this semi-aquatic civet. Conversion of peat swamp forests to oil palm plantations is likely to be a major threat particularly to this species. There is no evidence that the species is specifically hunted, but as a ground-dwelling species it will be exposed to the snares and ground-level traps set for other species. The number of animals caught and effect on the population are unknown.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Otter Civet is listed in Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora, and as ‘threatened’ in the IUCN Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids (Schreiber et al. 1989). Its conservation requires protection of forest and riverine habitat, and policing against illegal harvesting of timber and hunting (Veron et al. 2006). Conservation priorities would be better refined by clarification of its tolerance to degraded, fragmented, secondary and converted habitats, including riverine areas in plantations and other areas that maintain some natural vegetation, and its occurrence in the various types of wetland habitat. The paucity of recent records in the Thai-Malay peninsular, despite an increase in the use of camera-traps, is of great concern, and warrants specific search for the species.

This species has been detected in a fair number of protected areas throughout its range, including Bukit Sarang Conservation Area, Sarawak (Belden et al. 2007), Kaeng Krachan National Park, Thailand, in 1998 (Anon. 1998), Way Kambas National Park, Sumatra (Veron et al. 2006), Sembilang National Park, Sumatra (ZSL Indonesia Programme pers. comm. 2014), Danau Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan (Jeanes and Meijaard 2000), Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah (A.J. Hearn and J. Ross pers. comm. 2014) and Sabangau National Park, Central Kalimantan (Cheyne et al. 2010)

Citation: Ross, J., Wilting, A., Ngoprasert, D., Loken, B., Hedges, L., Duckworth, J.W., Cheyne, S., Brodie, J., Chutipong, W., Hearn, A., Linkie, M., McCarthy, J., Tantipisanuh, N. & Haidir, I.A. 2015. Cynogale bennettii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T6082A45197343. . Downloaded on 27 November 2015.
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