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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Otter Civet

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4



Family : Viverridae
Species : Cynogale bennettii

Head-body length : up to 68 cm
Tail length : up to 20 cm
Weight : Up to 5 kg

This highly elusive and unusual civet mainly inhabits riverine and lowland swamp forest, but has also been locally documented in lowland dipterocarp forest. In Borneo is has been found up to 1370 metres elevation. It is fully nocturnal, arboreal and semi-aquatic.

It is known to feed on aquatic animals, but little else is known of its ecology. Lekagul & McNeely (1977) list fish, crabs, freshwater molluscs, small mammals and birds amongst its diet. The images on this page appear to show the animal moving in a slow, stealthy manner whilst presumably hunting for prey in a shallow forest pool.

Its fur is dark brown above, and paler beneath. Its muzzle is broad, its lips are white and it has long whiskers. Its legs are short and stocky, and its tail is short and thick. Its feet are partly webbed, which is an adaptation to a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Its nostrils and ears can be closed when the animal is submerged.

This rarely encountered species is considered to be endangered. It ranges from southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia to Sumatra and Borneo.

In 2016 infra-red camera trap images of the species were acquired in Johor, Peninsular Malaysia (Yong, 2017).

In Singapore its status is considered as 'doubtful': there are no unequivocal records from the country and suitable habitat is very limited.

For a detailed and up-to-date discussion on the status of this species, reference should be made to the IUCN Red List (updated 2015).

Figs 1 and 2 : A lone Otter Civet explores a quiet forest pool in freshwater swamp forest habitat.

Figs 3 and 4 : The same pool by day and night.

References : M3, M5. M9

IUCN Red List (updated 2015)

Yong, D. L. The first evidence of breeding of the endangered Sunda Otter Civet Cynogale bennettii (Carnivora: Viverridae) in Peninsular Malaysia. Small Carnivore Conservation, 55, 83-87.