Over the past year we have been very fortunate to come across a number of masked palm civets in our project photographing cryptic mammals with the Kaeng Krachan National Park staff.
The masked palm civet (Paguma larvata) is a very interesting and unique species of civet found throughout the forests of Thailand. It is also known by the common names of the Himalayan Palm Civet and the Gem-faced Civet.
The genus Paguma was first named and described in 1827. There are currently 13 described sub-species of Paguma larvata distributed throughout China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Borneo, Sumatra, and Taiwan with variations in coats and masks. There may be as many as 24 potential sub-species according to literature. All are currently regarded as a single species. At some point there may obviously be a potential revision of the taxonomy.
The masked palm civet (Paguma larvata) resembles other civets of the family Viverridae with the unique exception that its brown to gray fur completely lacks spots, stripes, and other markings besides the clear mask on its face. The eyes of the masked palm civet are masked by two black bands and are surrounded by a series of white spots.
Its body size is comparable to that of a small to medium sized domestic dog ranging from 0.5 to 0.75 meters, but its distinctive tail doubles that length, so a large male could be 1.5 meters from nose to tail tip. We have noticed that some specimens in Kaeng Krachan have a white tip to that tail but others do not.
Closely related to other small carnivores such as weasels and mongooses, the masked palm civet is a solitary predator eating rodents, lizards, snakes, frogs and insects but will also partake in forest plants and fruits. It is inquisitive and will often stay searching an area in spite of our camera flashes. It is nocturnal but is also known to be active during the day, however our sightings in Kaeng Krachan National Park have been limited to nocturnal periods only. Thus far.
Life is no bed or roses for this unique animal as it is a prey species of Kaeng Krachan’s larger predatory cats, notably it’s tigers and leopards. However, it has developed a defense mechanism similar to a skunk and can spray a secretion from its anal gland against a predator.
Paguma larvata is a protected species in Thailand but is still vulnerable to habitat loss and poaching.
Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Viverridae Genus: Paguma