Cynogale bennettiiotter civet

Geographic Range

Cynogale bennettii, more commonly known as the otter civet or mampalon, inhabits the Malay Penninsula and the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. They may also occur in southern Thailand. (Nowak, 1999)


Due to its semi-aquatic nature, Cynogale bennettii resides in swampy wetlands and borders of streams and rivers in tropical Southeast Asia and Indonesia (Nowak 1999). Otter Civets are terrestrial animals, but will never stray too far from water (Burton et al. 1987).

Physical Description

Otter civets are approximately 705-880 mm. from head to tail (Nowak 1999). The fur ranges in color from pale close to the skin to almost black at the tips. The blackish fur is interspersed with longer gray hairs, giving it a frosted look (Nowak 1999). The vibrissae, or whiskers, are very long and there are many of them (Burton and Pearson 1987). Cynogale bennettii is a prime example of the diversification and specializations that have arisen in the family Viverridae (Joshi et al. 1995).

Cynogale bennettii possess several features which suit its aquatic lifestyle. Their nostrils can be closed with flaps, as can their ears (Nowak 1999). Their feet are webbed and rather wide for swimming. Their teeth show similarities to those of a seal. Otter civets have three premolars, two of which have jagged edges. The molars are wide with many ridges. The tooth pattern is different from the typical secodont dentition of most carnivores (Parker 1990). (Burton and Pearson, 1987; Joshi, et al., November, 1995; Nowak, 1999; Parker, 1990)

  • Range mass
    3 to 5 kg
    6.61 to 11.01 lb
  • Range length
    705 to 880 mm
    27.76 to 34.65 in


Very little information exists on the breeding patterns of Cynogale bennettii. Females will generally have between two and three young per season. Young have been found still with their mothers in May. The young are born without the frosted hairs on their backs. Scent glands have been found near the genital areas of males, which may play a role in reproduction

(Nowak 1999).

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



Some scientiests report that Cynogale bennettii is an excellently adapted swimmer because of all of its specializations (Parker 1990). Other experts have reported that Cynogale bennettii is not a very fast swimmer and would most likely flee its prey by climbing a tree rather than swimming. C. bennettii are suprisingly adept climbers. Otter civets walk with their heads and tails hung low, the back arched (Nowak 1999). These seldom seen creatures are nocturnal and hard to observe in the wild (Gould et al. 1998).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Judging from the Otter Civet's dention patterns, scientists believe the diet consists of fish, mollusks, crayfish, small mammals, and birds (Parker 1990). Cynogale bennettii is also thought to capture small mammals and birds as the prey drinks from the edges of streams and rivers. It has been hypothesized that the Otter Civet lies in wait for its prey, actually skimming the surface of the water, much like a crocodile or alligator (Parker 1990).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

From the glands in the genital area, civet oil or civet is secreted. This substance has been used for centuries in the perfume industry. It is refined and processed into the base of perfume (Gould et al. 1998).

Conservation Status

Experts hypothesize that otter civet populations may have declined by at least 50 percent. Suspected causes include habitat loss due to human settlement and agriculture. Competition from other more adapted species has also been mentioned (Nowak 1999). (Nowak, 1999)


Erica Raffo (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, 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.


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


Burton, J., B. Pearson. 1987. The Collins Guide to the Rare Mammals of the World. Lexington, MA: Stephen Greene Press.

Gould, E., G. McKay. 1998. Encyclopedia of Mammals Second Edition. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Joshi, A., J. Smith, F. Cuthbert. November, 1995. Journal of Mammalogy, 76: 1205-1212.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World Sixth Edition Vol. 1. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press.

Parker, S. 1990. Grimzek's Encyclopedia of Mammals Vol 3. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill INC..