civets - the stocky
‍‍cat-like creatures

October 1oth 2023

We are exceptionally lucky that having a permanent water source at our camp attracts a myriad of wildlife, to be enjoyed by all.

One that is seldomly seen and shares a slight resemblance to the North American Raccoon, civet’s could be construed as South Africa’s very own ‘trash pandas’.

These stocky, cat-like creatures can be found wandering around the African bush after dark from parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Southern Africa all the way through to the central parts of Mali in Northern Africa, and are also frequent visitors around Isambane Camp in the evenings.

They have a greyish fur, with black marking and a characteristically distinctive black ‘mask’ across their eyes, each civet has a unique coat, much like every human has unique fingerprints. Although classified as a carnivore, they have a varied diet which includes insects, fruit, small mammals, reptiles, grass and even carrion. They also play an important role in the dispersal of fruit seeds. Something else that civets quite enjoy munching on, are millipedes. Millipedes contain the toxins hydrogen cyanide and hydrochloric acid, which is something that most other animals would tend to avoid.

An interesting fact about civets is that they make use of middens, or civetries much in the same way you would see other mammals such as impala use.

These civetries are often found along frequently used pathways, and are also as a way of marking their territorial boundaries. Civets also have remarkably large scat for their smaller body size.

Although they may seem quite docile and skittish. Civets can be quite ferocious, something that we witnessed first hand one evening from our viewing deck. Our camp is also frequented by two honey badgers who often come to investigate the sturdiness of our bin storage area. In this instance, the smaller of the two honey badgers got a bit too close to a civet who promptly grabbed it by the neck and shook it around! The second honey badger came to the rescue and the civet was no match. It was chased away with its tail between its legs and perhaps a bit of a bruised ego. It was an incredibly interesting interaction to witness, and not something I think most would ever dream of seeing. It highlighted the unpredictability of nature and how even the
most unsuspecting creatures can be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, despite their big personalities, because of their small size they often fall prey to larger carnivores such as leopards, lions and even large snakes!

Civets release a yellowish, musky smelling substance which is secreted by their perineal glands. This secretion, which is also known as civet oil or civetone, was often used in the manufacturing of high-quality perfume as the scent could last as long as three months and was used in perfumes such as popular Chanel N°5, before 1998.

Civets are in general, very secretive creatures so it is a real special treat having them hang out around our camp in the evenings. Keep an eye from our deck during dinner, you may be lucky enough to spot one coming for a drink.

Shayna Wilson