African Civet (Civettictis civetta)

African Civet (Civettictis civetta) unmistakable features include large hindquarters, a low-head stance, and short (approximately 1-4 inch) mane which extends down its back and becomes erect when the animal is excited or scared, making it look larger. Individual civets are recognized by the details of their dark face masks, which resemble those of a raccoon, and also white neck stripes. Their bodies are silver or cream in color with brownish black markings and spots.

This bulky, long-haired, cat-like viverrid has been kept in captivity for thousands of years (its anal secretions were used in making perfumes until a synthetic replacement was found).

Civets are widespread and common in most wooded habitats and they have been recorded in most of Uganda’s national parks, but they are seen very rarely on account of their secretive, nocturnal habits.

African Civet civettictis civetta

African Civets occupy a wide variety of habitats including secondary forest, woodland, and bush habitats, as well as aquatic environments. They are generally absent from arid regions, with the exception of riverine systems therein. They are apparently uncommon in mature interior forest habitats, but will infiltrate deep forest via logging roads, and in the forests of West and Central Africa, they thrive in degraded and deforested areas, and are regularly encountered near villages.

African Civets are omnivorous and opportunistic foragers, and their diet may include cereals (maize, wheat, barley) and domestic fruits (e.g., bananas, figs, olives).

They are terrestrial, nocturnal and solitary, with exception of the breeding season when two or more individuals can be seen together.

African Civet civettictis civetta

These civets are predominately nocturnal, but they are sometimes seen in the morning or afternoon on cloudy days. The peak activity occurs 1-2 hours before sunset until about midnight. There is an increased tendency for both sexes to move around when sexually active. The African civet sleeps in the dense grass of thickets during the day, and only mothers with young have a nest. This nest is located in holes made by other animals or under tangled roots.

The African civet is solitary, except when breeding. Knowledge of the habits of the civets is limited because they are nocturnal and have a secretive life style. Although the civet is solitary, it has a variety of visual, olfactory, and auditory means of communication. They mark their territory by crouching down and pressing the perineal glands against an object. Furthermore, civets also deposit their feces in special piles. These dung piles have include anal gland secretions that provide an additional means to mark their area and possibly attract a partner.

The civets make three types of sounds — a growl, a cough-spit, and a scream — but the most commonly heard is the “ha ha ha” used in making contact.