Chrotogale owstoniOwston's palm civet

Geographic Range

Chrotogale owstoni is found in southern Yunan and southwest Guangxi provinces in China; northern Vietnam; and northern Laos. (Schreiber, 1989)


This species is said to be largely terrestrial, however it has been documented to climb into trees in search of food (Nowak 1999). It prefers densely vegetated habitats near water sources in both primary and secondary forests (Nowak 1999, Schreiber 1989). Local hunters state that the species may approach houses to feed on kitchen wastes, showing that C. owstoni may survive near villages (Schreiber 1989). (Nowak, 1999; Schreiber, 1989)

Physical Description

The body form and markings of Owston's palm civet are similar to those of the banded palm civet, Hemigalus derbyanus, but without neck-hairs that are reversed in direction. Both species have a pattern of stripes and bands arranged longitudinally in dark and light crescents over their body and tail (four dorsal bands seem to be the maximum number for C. owstoni), but unlike H. derbyanus, C. owstoni has rows of small, black spots on its neck, sides, and limbs as well as a tail that is dark for its last two-thirds. On the otherwise pale underside of C. owstoni, a narrow, orange line is situated mid-ventrally from the chest to the groin (Nowak 1997). The head of C. owstoni is fairly small with a long tapering snout containing small teeth (Kanchanasakha et alia 1998). The incisors are close-set, broad, and arranged in a semicircle, a unique, distinguishable characteristic from the rest of the viverrids and even carnivores (Nowak 1997). Contrastingly, Grzimek's states that the species has a similar dentition to that of H. derbyanus, related to their similarity in diet (Grzimek 1990). (Grzimek, 1990; Kanchanasakha, et al., 1998; Nowak, 1999)

  • Average mass
    2-3 kg
  • Average mass
    3250 g
    114.54 oz
  • Average length
    50-64 cm


Based on information gathered from captive animals, mating usually occurs in January and March; however, it may last until November. There is a 60-day gestation period, and each female has one to two litters each year containing one to three young per litter. Newborn C. owstoni weigh around 75-88 grams (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding season
    January-March (sometimes lasts until November)
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    60 days
  • Average gestation period
    61 days


Owston's palm civet is a nocturnal forager and supposedly is solitary in the wild. Dens are constructed under large tree trunks and in dense brush or may be located in natural holes in trees, rocks, or the soil. C. owstoni marks its territory with secretions from its anal/genital (Nowak 1999). This foul-smelling secretion may also be used in predator defense. Their conspicuous pelage may serve as a warning of this toxicity (Nowak 1999).

In captivity, males and females are said to peacefully co-exist. Even when a new individual is released inside the paddock, there is no aggression or hostility in the group (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The natural diet of C. owstoni consists largely of earthworms (Nowak 1999); however, small vertebrates, invertebrates, and some fruit may also be included in their diet. In captivity the species has been shown to eat beef, chicken, and bananas (Nowak 1999). C. owstoni is a nocturnal hunter, beginning roughly at dusk and returning to its den early the next morning (Nowak 1999). It feeds both terrestrially and in trees aided by its long snout, which is used as a digging tool for invertebrates under leaves and loose soil. C. owstoni also uses its forepaws to scratch at the ground in search of food (Grzimek 1990, Kanchanasakha et al. 1998). (Grzimek, 1990; Kanchanasakha, et al., 1998; Nowak, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

C. owstoni is hunted in the forests of Northern Indochina for its meat and for its traditional medicinal properties. (Zoos Victoria, 2001)

Conservation Status

Due to the restricted the range of this species, habitat destruction and over-hunting are believed to have an impact on populations of C. owstoni. Without sufficient information on the species in the wild, there can be no exact conservation status. Nevertheless, IUCN has placed Chrotogale on its Red List as Vulnerable, and CITES lists it in Appendix II (Zoos Victoria, 2001).

C. owstoni occurs in several protected areas in China (the Dawei Mountain National Reserve, Jinping Divide National Reserve, and Huanlian Mountain National Reserve) and one protected area in Vietnam (the Cuc Phuong National Park) (Schreiber 1989). A conservation study of C. owstoni has been established in Cuc Phuong National park by the Flora and Fauna Institute (Zoos Victoria, 2001). (Schreiber, 1989; Zoos Victoria, 2001)


Robert Adams (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kate Teeter (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Grzimek, B. 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kanchanasakha, B., S. Simcharoen, U. Than. 1998. Carnivores of Mainland South-East Asia. Bangkok: Endangered Species Unit, WWF-Thailand Project Office.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. 6th ed. v.1. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Schreiber, A. 1989. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and Their Relatives : an action plan for the conservation of mustelids and viverrids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Zoos Victoria, 2001. "Owston's Palm Civet Conservation Program" (On-line). Conservation Concerns. Accessed November 19, 2001 at