Paguma larvatamasked palm civet

Geographic Range

The masked palm civet is the most widespread of all civets. Its range includes northern Pakistan and Kashmir to Indochina and the Malay Peninsula, Laos, Sumatra, Borneo, Taiwan, Hainan, much of eastern and southern China, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Nowak, 1999; Veenakumari, 1996; Duckworth, 1998). Humans introduced this civet species to the Japanese islands of Honshu and Shikoku in the early- to mid-1900s (Nowak, 1999). (Duckworth, 1998; Nowak, 1999; Veenakumari, et al., 1996)


These civets are found in a variety of forests. They live in deciduous, evergreen, and mixed deciduous forests, as well as mountainous regions (Rabinowitz, 1991; Duckworth, 1998). They are also found in tropical rain forests (Nowak, 1999) and are frequently found near human settlements (Parker, 1990).

Physical Description

The body ranges from 50 to 76 cm in length, and the tail is between 50 and 64 cm long. The ears are approximately 4 to 6 cm long. Weight depends on gender and age, but adults vary between 3.6 and 5 kg. Their relatively short pelage is usually gray, with some tinges of orange, buff, and/or yellowish red. They have no stripes, spots, or bands on either the tail or the body. Their feet tend to be blackish and each has five retractable claws. The distal end of the tail tends to be darker than the proximal end. They are named for their 'mask', which consists of a median white stripe from the top of the head to the nose, white marks above each eye extending to the base of each ear, and white marks directly below each eye. These civets also have four identical anal glands which can discharge a potent secretion and the white facial markings have been interpreted as a warning signal (Nowak, 1999). Interestingly, the right lung has several more lobes than the left, resulting in more bronchioles and a subsequent increase in oxygen uptake efficiency (Nakakuki, 1993). Within the skull, the auditory bulla are constricted externally and divided by an internal septum (DeBlase, 1981). The dental formula is 3/3 1/1 3/4 2/2 and females have 2 pairs of mammae.

  • Range mass
    3.6 to 5 kg
    7.93 to 11.01 lb
  • Range length
    50 to 76 cm
    19.69 to 29.92 in


Mating behavior in this species is unknown.

There are two breeding seasons: early spring and late autumn. Litter size ranges from one to four offspring (Torii, 1986). The details of reproduction in this species are unknown.

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in early spring and late autumn.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring

The mother has two pair of mammary glands with which the young are nourished, usually within the safety of a tree hole. There seems to be a strong mother-young bond during lactation, but this ends after weaning. The young open their eyes after about nine days and are adult sized within three months (Nowak, 1999).


The masked palm civet has lived up to 20 years in captivity, but probably averages about 10 years in the wild (Nowak, 1999).


Masked palm civets are arboreal, solitary, and nocturnal (Nowak, 1999). They sleep during the day in 'day beds', which are in trees over 80% of the time. These beds are located in the top 10% of the tree (measured by height), and usually near a water source. No nest building activities are exhibited and particular day beds are not reused. The typical range for an individual is between one and two square kilometers, and some territoriality is apparent. During an average night, they are active approximately 50% of the time and can travel up to two kilometers in a single day. Increased activity is shown in warmer weather, with May having the highest activity levels and November the lowest (Rabinowitz, 1991).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

These civets are omnivorous and ingest mainly fruits, but they also eat small vertebrates, insects, and birds (Nowak, 1999).

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


The masked palm civet is preyed upon by a variety of animals, including, but not limited to, tigers, hawks, leopards, jaguars, and humans. Their potent anal glands secrete a volatile mix of civetone (9-cis-cycloheptadecenone) and methyl ketones that discourage predation (Wheeler, 1998). Their facial 'mask' is thought to warn potential predators of these noxious glands (Nowak, 1999). Also, their excellent climbing skills can assist in evading predation (Parker, 1990).

Ecosystem Roles

These civets are located at the top of many food chains, and thus play an integral role in predator-prey interactions and ecosystem balance (Heydon, 1996). In regions affected negatively by fire and human-induced disturbances, they assist in maintaining the natural forest communities. They are also very important in seed dispersal through fecal material (Rabinowitz, 1991).

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Masked palm civets are hunted for their fur and for food, and some local villagers keep them as pets. They are often used as ratters, since they are extremely quick and adept at killing these nuisance rodents (Nowak, 1999).

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These civets often raid fruit crops when those crops are close enough to the forest (Veenakumari, 1996). They have also been known to take chickens and other poultry (Nowak, 1999; Parker, 1990). Individuals in Japan have shown a high susceptibility to canine distemper virus infections, which would taint prospective meat (Machida, 1992).

Conservation Status

Masked palm civets are listed in appendix III of CITES. However, their habitat is being annihilated at an alarming rate by logging companies and human encroachment, making it possible that they will become increasingly vulnerable to becoming endangered (Heydon, 1996).


Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Steve Baker (author), Michigan State University.



living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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.

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


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.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


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.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

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

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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.


DeBlase, A., R. Martin. 1981. A Manual of Mammalogy. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Duckworth, J. 1998. A survey of large mammals in the central Annamite mountains of Laos. International Journal of Mammalian Biology, 63(4): 239-250.

Heydon, M., P. Bulloh. 1996. The impact of selective logging on sympatric civet species in Borneo. Oryx, 30(1): 31-36.

Machida, N., N. Izumisawa, T. Nakamura, K. Kiryu. 1992. Canine distemper virus infection in a masked palm civet (*Paguma larvata*). Journal of Comparative Pathology, 107(4): 439-443.

Nakakuki, S. June 1993. The bronchial tree, lobular division and blood vessels of the masked palm civet (*Paguma larvata*) lung. Journal of Veterinary Medical Society, 55(3): 425-429.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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

Rabinowitz, A. 1991. Behaviour and movements of sympatric civet species in Huni Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. Journal of Zoology, 223(2): 281-298.

Torii, H., T. Miyake. 1986. Litter size and sex ratio of the masked palm civet, *Paguma larvata*, in Japan. Journal of the Mammalogical Society of Japan, 11(2): 35-38.

Veenakumari, K., M. Prashanth, H. Ranganath, P. Mohanraj. 1996. Pests of fruit crops in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Entomon, 21(2): 153-156.

Wheeler, J., D. Lay, M. Blum, P. Weldon. June 1998. Ketones in the anal sac secretions of the masked palm civet, *Paguma larvata* (Viverridae, Mammalia). Biochemical Systematics and Ecology, 26(4): 457-458.