Are you planning a safari to the African Continent? If yes, then the African Civet is one of the fascinating animals you are likely to encounter. These mammals are scientifically known as Civettictis civetta and are the largest representative of the African Viverridae family and the only members of their genus (Civettictis). They are considered the commonest and widely distributed within Sub-Saharan Africa yet prefer woodlands as well as riverine habitats.
African Civets are primarily nocturnal animals that spend most of the day sleeping in the thick vegetation and are always awake during sunset. Not only that, they are solitary animals with exceptional colors in form of black and white stripes and blotches that cover their coarse pelage and are extremely variable and allow to be cryptic. They have black bands that surround their eyes and closely resemble that of the raccoon. Other features that stand out are their disproportionately large hindquarters and their erectile dorsal crest.
Their weight ranges from 7 to 20 kilograms (15 to 44 pounds) with the average being 12.5 kilograms (28 pounds) and their head-body length is 67 to 84 centimeters (26 to 33 inches) whereas the tails are 34 to 47 centimeters (13 to 19 inches) and shoulder height is about 40 centimeters (16 inches).
They are primarily omnivorous with their diet mainly comprising of vegetable matter, vertebrates, invertebrates, carrion and eggs. They are capable of consuming poisonous invertebrates and snakes, with prey being detected by smell and sound instead of sight but their predators include leopards and lions.
Just like most civets species, the African Civets have perineal glands that produce a distinctive fluid known as civet and spreads on markers within their territory to claim their range. Interestingly, this is always used in the perfume industry.
Their lifespan is 15 to 20 years and mating usually happens during the warm and wet summer months of August to January due to the high population of insects during that time and one offspring is born. The females usually nest within the thick vegetations and already dug holes.
African Civets are identified into six sub-species that include C.c. pauli Kock, C.c. australis, C.c. civetta, C.c. volkmanni, C.c. congica and C.c. schwarzi. Generally, the African civet are the largest viverrid in Africa. Unlike other animals, female African civets are known for being slightly larger with no great discernible with difference existing in measurements between sexes. African civets are black with few white bands and their paws are completely black.
Just like most mammals, the African Civets have two types of fur that include the under fur as well as the guard fur yet the pelage of these mammals is coarse and wiry. Interestingly, the coat is distinctive to each individual just like the human fingerprints.
They are omnivorous with their diet mainly comprising of fruits, insects, small mammals, reptiles, birds, fish, frogs, crabs, eggs and carrions among others. In Zimbabwe they consume mainly insects during the warmer wet summer months (from October to April) which them changes to reptiles, mice and birds during the colder-drier months of winter (May to September).