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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Owston's Civet

Family : Viverridae
Species : Chrotogale owstoni

Head-body length : up to 63 cm
Tail length : up to 48 cm

Owston's Civet inhabits lowland and montane, wet, evergreen primary forest, up to a highest known elevation of 2600 metres.  It is sometimes documented from secondary evergreen forest,   karst limestone forest (which is predicted to hold viable populations, according to IUCN) and bamboo forest, but it is not known from dry forest.

It is nocturnal in habits and is largely terrestrial, but is capable of climbing onto low tree branches. It is known to feed on soft-bodied invertebrates such as earthworms: this dietary preference may possibly be why this civet better thrives in wet, humid forest, however this is somewhat speculative (

This species is monospecific (meaning that it is the only member of its genus i.e. Chrotogale). Its general body and head shape, however, shows some similarity with the Banded Civet Hemigalus derbyanus (which occurs in more southerly parts of Southeast Asia): for example, its head is narrow, elongated and pointed, its ears are large, and its body is relatively slender.

Its fur colour can vary from off-white to pale yellowish-brown, and there are bold, well-defined, black bands and stripes on the head and body, and dark spots on the neck and legs. The tail is thick and mainly black, except for the front one-third which is banded. The underside of females is typically yellowish, but in males is more orange-red.

This unique and poorly studied civet is categorised as endangered: it is vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and hunting, including the use of hunting dogs and snares (is is often the victim of snares targetting other ground-dwelling mammals).

Owston's Civet still survives in parts of eastern Laos and Vietnam, but it may be extinct in southern China.

Fig 1 :  Typical example of Owston's Civet. This is probably a female, based on the yellowish fur on the underside.  Image courtesy Nguyen Van Thai / SVW.

Fig 2 : Moist forest clinging to the slopes of limestone massifs in northern Vietnam: the extent to which Owston's Civet may inhabit such rugged terrain is unclear.

References : M5


Image attribution :
Fig 1 : "Owston's Civet_Thai(10)" by Nguyen Van Thai / SVW is licensed under

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Fig 1
ゥ  Nguyen Van Thai / SVW 
Fig 2