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Civettictis civetta [sih vet' tik tis sih' vet uh]
Looking somewhat like a cross between a cat, a raccoon, and a weasel, the African civet has many distinguishing features, including large hindquarters, low-head stance, and short mane. Individual civets are recognized by the details of their dark face masks, which resemble those of a raccoon, as well as white neck stripes. The body is silver or cream in color with brownish black markings and spots. Body length averages from 24 to 36 inches, with a 17 to 24 inch tail. Average weight is 15 to 24 pounds.
Distribution and Habitat
The African civet inhabits the savannahs and forests of southern and central Africa, as well as in the forests of western Africa from Senegal through Liberia. Although it lives both in the forest and in open country, it requires a covering of tall grasses or thicket to provide safety in the daytime. It is usually found close to permanent water systems.
Habits and Behaviors
Although predominately nocturnal, African civets are sometimes seen in the morning or afternoon on cloudy days. They sleep in the dense grass of thickets during the day.
African civets are solitary, except when mating, and territorial.
Rodents, insects, reptiles and birds are the primary prey of African civets. Carrion and eggs are also eaten, as are some wild fruits, roots and tubers.
The breeding season in central and east-central Africa runs from March through October, while in southern Africa it encompasses the warm, wet summer months from August to January. There is no specific breeding season in the westernmost parts of the civet's range. Females may have two or three litters per year, with one to four young per litter being the norm.
Young civets are born in a hole in the ground or in dense cover. They are born fully furred, and are able to crawl almost immediately after birth. They are able to leave the nest at about 18 days, begin to play at about 2 weeks, and are weaned at about 6 weeks.
The average lifespan of an African civet in the wild is 15 to 20 years.
The African civet has glands near its reproductive organs that secrete a musk-like substance that serves to attract potential mates. Quite potent and offensive to the human nose in its concentrated form, it has a pleasant scent when diluted and was once a vital ingredient in some of the world's most expensive perfumes.
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This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.