This article contains images that may be disturbing to some readers.
Tim Metcalfe, who lives by the sea at Tai Wan, went out onto his patio this week and found what he thought was a dead palmed civet cat. Tim said his dog looked guilty.
BUZZ asked zoologist Graham Reels if Tim’s identification of the animal was correct. Graham said yes, he believes it is a masked palm civet (paguma larvata). A nocturnal solitary predator, civets are rarely seen. They have some odd behavioural characteristics. If you scare them they may spray you with a secretion from the anal gland like a skunk. Their reproductive behaviour is promiscuous with the male leaving a copulation plug in the female’s vagina when he has done his business.
The masked palm civet, also known as gem-faced civet, is found in India, Indochina and China. Their fur is reddish to grey and they wear a black and white facial mask. The tail is about two thirds the length of the body. In Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants the meat is widely served. The animals are not believed to be in danger of extinction.
Graham Reels’ book, Confessions of a Hong Kong Naturalist, was reviewed in SAI KUNG BUZZ recently. We compared it to Three Men in a Boat and A Good Keen Man because of the amusing scrapes Graham and fellow HKU researchers get up to in the bush. The book is also quite technical as it describes the creatures found in Hong Kong.