Viverra civettina Blyth, 1862:332

Malabar civet, Malabar large-spotted civet



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Viverra megaspila civettina Blyth, 1862:332


Conservation Status


Last record: 1987? Early 1990's? 1993?

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)


The Malabar civet (Viverra (megaspila) civettina) was not definitely recorded between 1950 and 1987, when it was rediscovered, as reported in the literature (Kurup 1987,1989). Pelts of recently killed individuals were examined by scientists and concluded to be those of the Malabar civet. However, despite it's rediscovery it has not been recorded since the early 1990's (1993?), and may possibly be truly extinct now.

There is, however, sufficient reason for being sceptical about both its geographical range and perhaps even its validity (Nandini & Mudappa, 2010). As the provenance of all known museum specimens is unclear, it is not known for certain that the Malabar civet actually occurs (or occurred) in southern India (specifically the Western Ghats). Skins may have been traded over large distances and therefore obscuring the original locality from where the specimens derived in the process.

Nandini & Mudappa (2010) suggest DNA tests of all putative pelts of this taxon, and a comparison with those species most closely allied, especially the Large-spotted civet  (V. megaspila) of which the Malabar civet was considered a subspecies for many years on account of it's close morphology including pelt colour and patterning. However, an examination of the pelts of the Malabar and Small Indian civets reproduced in (Nandini & Mudappa, 2010:48) seems to show some distinct differences in pelage colour. Specifically the inversion of colours on the tail. However, these may be explainable without invoking multiple taxa.



Western Ghats, India?






Nandini & Mudappa (2010) were able to trace 13 specimens labelled as "Viverra civettina" or "Viverra megaspila civettina". It was their opinion that two of these were mislabelled Viverra megaspila, and a further two skins in the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun, were destroyed. That leaves a total of 8 skins (3 males, 1 female, 4 sex unknown/unspecified), of which four of these (3 males, 1 female) also have the skull:


2 specimens are in the Natural History Museum, London:

ZD 1884.6.3.11 (male; skin and skull)

ZD  1920.1.17.3 (male; skin and skull)


1 specimen is in the Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai:

BNHS 5599 (male; skin and skull)


1 specimen is in the Zoological Survey of India, Kozhikode:

[ZSI?] 3847 (skin, sex unknown)


1 specimen is in the Calicut University Museum, Kozhikode:

[accession # unknown] (skin, sex unknown)


1 specimen is in the Chennai Government Museum:

[accession # unknown] (skin, sex unknown)


1 specimen is in the Zoological Survey of India, Kolkata:

[ZSI?] 10393 (skin and skull, sex unknown)


1 specimen is in the NCB Naturalis, Netherlands (RMNH):

RMNH 3748 (female; skin and skull)






Original scientific description:

Blyth, E. (1862). Report of Curator, Zoological Department, 1862. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 31: 331-345.


Other references:

Archana, B. and Radhakrishnan, C. (2010). Comparative study of the Characteristic features of primary guard hair of Malabar civet, Viverra megaspila civettina Blyth, 1862, (Mammalia: Carnivora: Viverridae) with other Indian viverrids. Biosystematica 4(2): 19-28. [Abstract]

Ashraf, N. V. K., Kumar, A. and Johnsingh, A. J. T. (1993). Two endemic viverrids of the Western Ghats, India. Oryx 27(2): 109-114. [Abstract]

Ashraf, N. V. K., Menon, V., Amstrong, N., Rao, S. & Karthik, K. (2009). Conservation of Malabar Civet (Viverra civettina) in Kerala and Karnataka: final report. Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi, India.

Corbet, G. B. and Hill, J. E. (1992). Mammals of the Indomalayan region. A systematic review. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 488 pp.

Ellerman, J. R., and T. C. S. Morrison-Scott. 1951. Checklist of Palaearctic and Indian mammals 1758 to 1946. Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History), London, 810 pp.

Fisher, Diana O. (2011). Trajectories from extinction: where are missing mammals rediscovered? Global Ecology & Biogeography 20: 415-425. [Appendix S1]

Gaubert, P. and Cordeiro-Estrela, P. 2006. Phylogenetic systematics and tempo of evolution of the Viverrinae (Mammalia, Carnivora, Viverridae) within feliformians: Implications for faunal exchanges between Asia and Africa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 41: 266-278.

Gaubert, P., Vernon, G. & Trainer, M. 2002. Genets and ‘genet-like’ taxa (Carnivora, Viverrinae): phylogenetic analysis, systematics and biogeographic implications. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 134: 317-334.

Goodwin, H.A.; Holloway, C.W. (revised by Thornback, J.). 1972 and 1978. Red Data Book. Volume 1. Mammalia. Morges, International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

Jayson, E. A. (2007). Status of the critically endangered species, Malabar Civet Viverra megaspila civettina Blyth, 1862 in the southern Western Ghats. Kerala Forest Research Institute (Research Report 305), Peechi, India.

Karanth, K. U. (1986). A possible sighting record of Malabar Civet (Viverra megaspila Blyth) from Karnataka. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 83(1): 192-193.

Kurup, G. U. (1987). The rediscovery of the Malabar Civet, Viverra megaspila civettina Blyth in India. Cheetal 28(2): 1-4.

Kurup, G. U. (1989). The rediscovery of the Malabar Civet, Viverra megaspila civettina Blyth in India. Tigerpaper 16(1): 13-14.

Lindsay, H. M. (1928). A note on Viverra civettina, Blyth. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 33: 146-148.

Mudappa, D., Helgen, K. and Nandini, R. (2016). Viverra civettina. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T23036A45202281. Downloaded on 23 July 2016.

Nandini, R. and Mudappa, Divya. (2010). Mystery or myth: a review of history and conservation status of the Malabar Civet Viverra civettina Blyth, 1862. Small Carnivore Conservation 43: 47-59.

Papes, M. and Gaubert, P. (2007). Modelling ecological niches from low numbers of occurrences: assessment of the conservation status of poorly known viverrids (Mammalia, Carnivora) across two continents. Diversity and Distributions 13: 890-902.

Pocock, R. I. (1933). The rarer genera of oriental Viverridae. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 4: 969-1035.

Pocock, R. I. (1941). The fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia. Vol. II. Carnivora (suborders Aeluroidae (part) and Arctoidae). Taylor and Francis, Ltd., London, 503 pp.

Rai, N. D. and Kumar, A. (1993). A pilot study on the conservation of the Malabar civet, Viverra civettina (Blyth, 1862): project report. Small Carnivore Conservation 9: 3-7.

Rao, S., Ashraf, N. V. K. and Nixon, A. M. A. (2007). Search for the Malabar Civet Viverra civettina in Karnataka and Kerala, India, 2006-2007. Small Carnivore Conservation 37: 6-10.

Scheffers, Brett R., Yong, Ding Li, Harris, J. Berton C., Giam, Xingli and Sodhi, Navjot S. (2011). The world’s rediscovered species: back from the brink? PLoS ONE 6(7): e22531. [Supporting Information (Table S1)]

Schreiber, A., Wirth, R., Riffel, M. and Van Rompaey, H. (1989). Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and their Relatives An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. iv + 99 pp.

Wozencraft, W. C. 1984. A phylogenetic reappraisal of the Viverridae and its relationship to other Carnivora. Unpubl. Ph. D. dissertation, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, 1129 pp.

Wozencraft, W. C. (1989). Classification of the Recent Carnivora. Pp. 569-593, in Carnivore behavior, ecology and evolution (J. L. Gittleman, ed.). Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 620 pp.


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