Smaller carnivores of the Lebombo Concession – The Viverrids
Kruger National Park | September 2017
Viverrids are generally small to medium sized mammals from the Order Carnivora and the family Viverridae. The viverrids include genets, civets, linsangs, palm civets and binturongs. The only viverrids that we find in southern Africa are civets and genets. The family Viverridae supposedly evolved from the Feliforms (cat clade) and are the most primitive of all the families of Feliforms. They are less specialized than the Felidae (true cats). Like cats, Viverrids have excellent eyesight and hearing, but they tend to have longer snouts, shorter legs, and also have differences in their skull, teeth, and even whiskers. They also have only semi-retractable claws (unlike the cats, which generally have fully retractable claws – except the cheetah). In most Viverrid species, males and females are similar in appearance. Viverrids are generally nocturnal and usually only get active after the sun goes down. Although classified as carnivores, Viverrids are omnivorous and feed on a wide range of food items including insects and other arthropods, small reptiles, birds and even fruit. The aquatic genet (Genetta piscivora), which is found in the Democratic Republic of Congo, feeds predominantly on fish. The Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) has become well-known because of its habit of feeding on various fruit including coffee beans. The partially digested coffee beans (found in the Palm Civet’s droppings) are utilized to produce a coffee, known as “Kopi Luwak” that is supposedly less bitter and which has a slightly different flavour. Because of the difficulty of finding these beans and its scarcity it became a trendy drink and is possibly the most expensive coffee in the world (selling at between $100 and $500 per kilogram). Due to the high prices of the coffee and the difficulty in finding the coffee beans in the droppings of wild palm civets it has led to intensive farming of these animals in order to obtain more of the coffee beans. Unfortunately, these animals are often caught in the wild and then housed in mass cages where they are force-fed the coffee fruits. These animals are often kept in isolated in small battery-style cages, without the ability to get any exercise and often in unhygienic conditions. Many of these animals die due to maltreatment.
In the Lebombo Concession we find the following Viverrids: the African civet (Civettictis civetta), the large-spotted genet (Genetta tigrina) and the small-spotted genet (Genetta genetta).