Species of the Week

This week Biodinâmica looks into one of the species observed in our recent fieldworks: the African Civet.

Common name: African civet
Species: Civettictis civetta

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Viverridae
Genus: Civettictis

Conservation status: Least Concern
Diet: insects, other invertebrates, wild fruits, small rodents, reptiles, birds and carrion. Sometimes also cereals and domestic fruits.
Size: 120-140 cm
Weight: 9-15 kg
Longevity in the wild: <10 years

During a recent fildwork, two of our camera traps captured an individual of this species. Camera trapping is one of the techniques used in fauna assessments, and allows to obtain wildlife pictures and video with little human interference, using just a camera and a bait.

The African civet is a nocturnal, opportunistic mammal and the largest African member of the Viverridae family (which also includes genets i.e.). This species is easily distinguished by its stumpy front legs and its large hindquarters, which hold the rump high and the head low in an unusual posture characteristic of civets. It has a wide head with a pointy muzzle,
small eyes and small, rounded ears.


Geographic Range

A widespread and abundant species in Africa, the African civet can be found from Senegal, on the west coast, to southern Somalia, on the east coast. Its range extends south to include Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, although it is more restricted and generally only found in the north-eastern regions of these countries. It is also present in Zanzibar and São Tomé islands. The species is recorded from almost sea level to altitudes of 5.000 m.

Habitat and Ecology

African civets occupy a wide variety of habitats including secondary forest, woodland, and bush habitats, as well as aquatic environments. The species can also be found on cultivated land. African Civets are omnivorous and opportunistic foragers. They are terrestrial, nocturnal and solitary, with exception of the breeding season when two or more individuals can be seen together.


The litters have usually between 2-4 cubs, weghing about 300 g. They usually born between August and January, in burrows excavated by other species, in rock crevices or in dense vegetation. Gestation period has 60-65 days.



The African civet is exploited for its perianal secretion, used as a fixative for perfume. Even though synthetic alternatives have been available for over 60 years, it remains an important export commodity in several countries, including Ethiopia and Niger. The African civet is commonly found in Nigerian bushmeat markets, where there is demand for its skin and white meat. Rare strains of rabies may also affect the African civet, and it is thought the slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) may act transmit this disease in the wild.


Civets are often confused with genets. However, they are much larger, with shorter tail.

When threatened, the African civet emits astonishingly deep growls and fearsome coughs, and it can double in size by fluffing out its fur and erecting a crest of long, black hairs along its spine. It is presumed that this stance also functions to impress other civets.


Stuart, C. & Stuart M. (2015). Stuarts’ Field Guide to Mammals of Southern Africa, Struik Nature, South Africa, ISBN 978 1 77584 111 1, 456 pp.
IUCN Red List
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