Viverra tangalungaMalayan civet

Geographic Range

The oriental civet, Viverra tangalunga, also known as the Malay civet, is found on the Malay peninsula, and on the islands of Sumatra, Bangka, Borneo, the Rhio Archipelago,and the Phillipines. It has been introduced to many other Southeast Asian islands. (Nowak 1983, Kitchener 1993)


Oriental civets live in a wide variety of habitats like forest, brush, and grasslands. They stay in the dense cover by day and come into the open at night. They are mainly terrestrial, although they can climb trees easily if necessary. They have been found in disturbed areas of montane forests near villages.

(Nowak 1983, Kitchener 1993)

Physical Description

V. tangalunga measures 585 to 950 mm in head and body length; tail length is 300 to 482 mm. Coloration is composed of black spots on a background of tawny or grayish body color. There are usually three black and two white collars on the sides of the neck and throat. The fur is long and loose, and usually elongated along the spinal area forming a low crest or mane. This mane is marked by a black stripe running from the shoulders to the tail. The tail is also banded with black and white. The feet of the Oriental civet are all black. Viverra have five toes on each foot. On the third and fourth digit of the forefeet are lobes of skin which sheath and protect their retractile claws. The dental formula is I 3/3 C 1/1 PM 3-4/3-4 M 1-2/1-2. (Nowak 1983)

  • Range mass
    5 to 11 kg
    11.01 to 24.23 lb


A female Oriental civet may have one to four young per litter two times per year. The young are born in dense vegetation or in holes in the ground. Their eyes are closed at birth, but they do have hair. Weaning begins at approximately one month. Female viverrids have two or three pairs of abdominal mammae. Male viverrids have a baculum. The lifespan of the Oriental civet is probably around 5-15 years. (Nowak 1983)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring



V. tangalunga is mostly nocturnal and solitary. Males and females join up to mate. If a Malay civet is cornered it may fight, but otherwise seems to show little aggression. These civets are hunters and may obtain prey by stalking it or pouncing on it from a hiding place. Oriental civets produce a secretion from their anal scent glands known as civet. Civet may be secreted as a defensive measure, similar to that of the skunk (family Mustelidae). Civet may also be secreted and rubbed on various objects to communicate with conspecifics. (Nowak 1983)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Oriental civets are strong hunters. They will kill small mammals, birds, snakes, frogs, and insects. They will also eat eggs, fruit, and have been observed eating some roots. A similar Viverra species, Viverra zibetha has been found fishing in India. (Nowak 1983)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Viverra tangalunga is one of the sources of Civet. Civet is used commercially in producing perfumes. Trade in live civets for their musk is a source of economy. It has also been used for some medicinal purposes. Some viverrids, including the Oriental civet, may be tamed and kept to extract this musk.

(Nowak 1983, Kitchener 1993)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Viverrids living near villages occasionally kill poultry.

Conservation Status


Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Julie Harris (author), Michigan State University.


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.


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.


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.


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

World Map


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.


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


uses touch to communicate


Kitchener, A., T. Clegg, N. Thompson, H. Wilk, A. MacDonald. 1993. First Records of the Malay civet, Viverra tangalunga Gray. 1832, on Seram with notes on the Seram bandicoot Rhynchomeles prattorum Thomas, 1920. International Journal of Mammalian Biology, 58: 378-380.

Nowak, R., J. Paradiso. 1983. Carnivora; Viverridae; Genus VIVERRA. Pp. 1023 in Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.