The Malabar civet is possibly one of the Western Ghats’ rarest and most threatened mammals.
This small, dog like carnivore has been pushed to the brink of extinction by hunting and habitat loss. The Malabar civet is in the Viverra genus, with 4 extant species within it, one of five genera in the Viverrinae subfamily that comprises of civets, genets and linsangs. Once widespread in the Western Ghats, the Malabar civet was declared possibly extinct in 1978. Although it was rediscovered nine years later, it has never been photographed and there has been no published proof of its continued survival for over a decade. If the species survives at all, it is likely to be as a series of isolated relic populations, largely confined to thickets in cashew nut plantations.
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Viverridae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 1-1.25m
- Weight: 8-9kg
This species is endemic to the Western Ghats of India, being recorded in southern India from Kanyakumariin in the extreme south, to Honnavar in Karnataka in the north. However, as it has lost almost its entire primary habitat, it is likely that the species is now represented by relic populations in sub-optimal habitats along the foothills and lower slopes of the Western Ghats.
Habitat and Ecology
The Malabar civet once inhabited lowland forests, lowland swamp and riparian forests. However, now that natural forests have disappeared, the species now appears to be largely confined to thickets in cashew plantations and to highly degraded lowland forests in northern Kerala. Little is known about the ecology of this species. Local people report that the species is nocturnal, with individuals foraging in the valleys at night and retreating to the scrub forests and cashew plantations by day. They likely feed on small animals, eggs and some vegetable matter.