African Civet (Civettictis civetta) is a small cat-like small carnivore closely related to a weasel and mongoose. It is most known for the musk it secretes to mark its territory (called Civetone), which was previously used to manufacture perfumes. It has striking black and white markings, making it easy to spot.
The African civet’s unmistakable features include large hindquarters, a low-head stance, and a short mane that makes it seem larger than it is. The mane extends down its back and becomes erect when the animal is excited or scared.
Individual civets are recognized by the details of their dark face masks, which resemble those of a raccoon and white neck stripes. Their bodies are silver or cream-coloured with brownish black markings and spots.
This bulky, long-haired, cat-like viverrid has been kept in captivity for thousands of years to harvest its anal secretions used in making perfumes until recently when they found a synthetic replacement.
Civets are widespread in most wooded habitats in Uganda’s national parks, but they are seen very rarely because of their secretive, nocturnal habits.
African Civets occupy a wide variety of habitats, including secondary forest, woodland, bush habitats, and aquatic environments.
They are generally absent from arid regions, except in riverine systems therein. They are uncommon in mature interior forest habitats but will infiltrate deep forests via logging roads. In the forests of West and Central Africa, civets thrive in degraded and deforested areas near villages.
African Civets are omnivorous and opportunistic foragers, and their diet may include cereals (maize, wheat, barley) and domestic fruits (e.g., bananas, figs, olives).
They are terrestrial, nocturnal and solitary, except during the breeding season when two or more individuals are together.
African civets are predominately nocturnal but sometimes come out in the morning or afternoon on cloudy days. Their peak active time is 1 to 2 hours before sunset until about midnight.
There is an increased tendency for both sexes to move around when sexually active. The African civet sleeps in the dense grass of thickets during the day, and only mothers with young have a nest. This nest is located in holes made by other animals or under tangled roots.
The African civet is solitary, except when breeding, and it’s nocturnal and has a secretive lifestyle. Although the civet is solitary, it has a variety of visual, olfactory, and auditory means of communication.
It marks their territory by crouching down and pressing the perineal glands against an object. Furthermore, civets also deposit their faeces in special piles. These dung piles have anal gland secretions that provide an additional means to mark their area and possibly attract a partner.
The civets make three types of sounds — a growl, a cough-spit, and a scream — but the most commonly heard is the “ha ha ha” used in making contact.