Golden palm civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis)

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Golden palm civet fact file

Golden palm civet description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
FamilyViverridae
GenusParadoxurus (1)

The golden palm civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis) is the only civet that is found exclusively in Sri Lanka (2), and in the language of the native Sinhala people it is called ‘Pani uguduwa’, which literally means ‘honey coloured civet’. The common name of this species refers to its golden fur. However, in many individuals the coat is actually dark brown. Recent evidence suggests that these two colour morphs may actually represent different subspecies (3).

The male and female golden palm civet are similar in appearance, while juveniles have a darker, more fluffy coat (3).

Despite its somewhat misleading name, it is possible to distinguish between the golden palm civet and the other civet species found in Sri Lanka, the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). The fur of the golden palm civet is a uniform colour, where as the common palm civet has a mottled appearance (3).

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Golden palm civet biology

Very little is known about the biology of the golden palm civet (2), although like most palm civet species, it is solitary and forages at night (5). While its reproductive habits are still largely unknown, young are generally sighted between October and November, suggesting that reproduction occurs late in the year (6).

Although the golden palm civet is a tree dwelling species, it will often forage on the forest floor or in the undergrowth (2). While it mainly feeds on fruit, it is also known to eat insects and small vertebrates (5). Through feeding, this species is largely responsible for the seed dispersal of the Kitul palm (Caryota urens) (2), an economically important plant which produces a naturally sweet sugar (7).

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Golden palm civet range

The golden palm civet is endemic to Sri Lanka, unlike the common palm civet which is found throughout South Asia (3). It is confined to the few small areas within Sri Lanka where its natural habitat remains (1), and is most common in Sinharaja Forest (4).

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Golden palm civet habitat

The golden palm civet is found in lowland rainforests, evergreen mountain forests and monsoon forests (1). An arboreal species, the golden palm civet is a very capable climber. It has shown some level of adaptation to its changing habitat, and will sometimes visit cultivated forests and villages when foraging (2).

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Golden palm civet status

The golden palm civet is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

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Golden palm civet threats

The golden palm civet’s arboreal lifestyle means that the main threat it faces is deforestation, as vast areas of Sri Lankan forest are being cleared to make way for agriculture, the timber industry and urbanisation. As a result of this, its habitat is becoming fragmented, leaving small isolated populations of the golden palm civet (1).

It has also been observed that the golden palm civet is more sensitive to the presence of humans than the common palm civet (2).

Another threat to the golden palm civet is the negative reputation that it has in Sri Lanka, where it is often seen a pest species which potentially damages crops, although this has never been proven (6). Traps are laid using fruit in order to kill the golden palm civet, and in some areas it is also killed for meat (2).

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Golden palm civet conservation

Although there are no specific conservation measures in place for the gold palm civet, some of its habitat does receive protection (1). One of the species’ strongholds, the Sinharaja Forest, is a UNESCO world heritage site (8).

As little is known about the true population size and life history of the golden palm civet, further scientific research is required in order to assess how best to protect this species. It has also been recommended that a breeding population be established in captivity (2).

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Find out more

For more information on the conservation of civets and other small carnivores:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Arboreal
An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
Morph
One of two or more distinct types of a given species, often distinct colour forms, which occur in the same population at the same time (that is, are not geographical or seasonal variations).
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
Vertebrates
Animals with a backbone, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Schreiber, A., Wirth, R., Riffel, M. and Van Rompaey, H. (1989) Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and their Relatives. An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. Available at:
    http://data.iucn.org/dbtw-wpd/edocs/1989-011.pdf
  3. Groves, C.P., Rajapaksha, C. and Manemandra-Arachchi, K. (2009) The taxonomy of the endemic golden palm civet of Sri Lanka. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 155: 238-251.
  4. Karunaratne, P.B., Peiris, T. and Raheem, R. (1981) A research project in the Sinharaja Forest. Loris, 15: 326-327.
  5. Jennings, A.P. and Veron, G. (2009) Family Viverridae. Hand-book of the mammals of the world, Vol. 1, Carnivores. Lynx edicions, Barcelona.
  6. Phillips, W.W.A. (1935) Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon. Dulau & Co., Ltd. London.
  7. De Zoysa, N. (1992) Tapping patterns of the Kitul palm (Caryota urens) in the Sinharaja area, Sri Lanka. Principes, 36(11): 28-33.
  8. UNESCO - Sinharaja Forest Reserve (November, 2011)
    http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/405
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Image credit

Golden palm civet  
Golden palm civet

© Shyamala Ratnayeke

Shyamala Ratnayeke

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