Macrogalidia musschenbroekiiSulawesi palm civet

Geographic Range

Sulawesi palm civets are found only on the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Verified range on the island includes the end of the Minahassa peninsula, the east peninsula, the southeast peninsula, and a small section of central Sulawesi. Few sighting or specimens have been recorded from central and southern Sulawesi. (Lee, et al., 2003; Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

Two other species of civets occur within Sulawesi palm civet range. Both the common palm civet and the Malay civet have been introduced to Sulawesi. (Veron, 2001)


Sulawesi palm civets preferred habitat is primary growth rain forest. Evidence suggests these civets are equally prevalent across elevations within its range. These habitats include upper montane rain forest and cloud forest, lower montane rain forest, and lowland rain forest. Sulawesi civets are also associated with farms, where they seek out chicken coops. (Schreiber, et al., 1989; Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 2600 m
    0.00 to 8530.18 ft

Physical Description

Sulawesi civets posses a soft, short, fine coat with brown coloration on the back and yellow brown coloration on the under parts. The breast may have a reddish tint. Vague darker spots are arranged along the back in two vertical rows on either side of the spine. Between seven and eleven light yellowish tail rings can also be present, but may be incomplete or irregularly spaced. The tip of the tail is darker. The face is brown with paler zones of hair around the eyes, in the ears, and along the upper lip. (Lydekker, 1896; Wemmer, et al., 1983)

Very few living specimens have been measured. The data presented here are based on two female specimens and one male. Body lengths for these females were 650 mm plus a 480 mm tail and 680 mm with a broken tail 445 mm long. Male body length was 715 mm with a 540 mm tail. Despite having a common name of “giant civet,” they are not unusually large for a civet, being similar in size to masked palm civets. They are, however, the largest wild carnivore on Sulawesi Females have a perineal scent gland behind their genetalia, but males seem to lack a perineal scent gland. The female gland characteristics are similar to those of masked palm civet. The only other taxa of palm civets in which males lack a scent gland is the genus Arctogalidia. Upper and lower cheek teeth run parallel rather than diverging towards the back. (Lydekker, 1896; Wemmer, et al., 1983)

Molecular evidence shows that Sulawesi civets are actually in the subfamily Hemigalinae instead of Paradoxurinae where they have been historically grouped. Its morphological similarities to the Paradoxurines are due to convergence. This puts Sulawesi civets closest relative as the otter civet. (Wilting and Fickel, 2012)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    3.85 to 6.1 kg
    8.48 to 13.44 lb
  • Range length
    1130 to 1255 mm
    44.49 to 49.41 in


The reproductive biology of these civets has yet to be studied.

Reproductive behavior of this little known viverrid is still unknown. It is likely similar to other civets, but because Sulawesi civets are monotypic in its genus and possibly grouped in the wrong subfamily it is difficult to compare them to other species. In general, other civets have one to two litters of one to three young per year, with a gestation period of 30 to 60 days. Time to sexual maturity is about one year. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986; Wilting and Fickel, 2012)

  • Breeding interval
    The breeding interval for Sulawesi civets is unknown.
  • Breeding season
    The mating season for Sulawesi civets is unknown.

Females care for the young and have two pairs of nipples. It is possible that mother and young share some territory. It is unlikely that males participate in parental care, but this is not known for sure. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986; Wemmer, et al., 1983)


Lifespan of the Sulawesi civet is unknown. Other civets have lifespans of 5 to 20 years.


The Sulawesi civet is solitary and nocturnal. It is a highly skilled climber and specializes in arboreal foraging. It has semi-retractable claws, quick reflexes, flexible feet, and a mobile tail for balance and bracing. It spends more time on the ground than some related species, like the binturong and African palm civet. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

Home Range

The length of time between visits to a particular site (5 to 10 days) by individual Sulawesi civets suggests that they maintain a large home range, similar to the 150 hectare range of African civets. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

Communication and Perception

Unlike Malay civets, Sulawesi palm civets do not make latrines to mark territory with repeated defecation in the same place. They do leave scratch markings on trees 2 m or so from the ground. Females have a perineal scent gland, most likely for within species communication. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986; Wemmer, et al., 1983)

Food Habits

Sulawesi palm civets are omnivores, subsisting on a variety of animal prey and fruits. Scat analysis showed small rodents and birds to be the highest content, but fruits probably provide a larger portion of the diet and are more completely digested. Prey attributed to Sulawesi palm civets include the Sulawesi cuscus, piglets of the Sulawesi warty pig, various members of the 28 species of rodents found on Sulawesi, chickens, and megapodes including Macrodephalon maleo, as well as bird eggs. When consuming a bird, the Sulawesi civet eats the entire animal, including most of the feathers and the feet. In its fugivorus capacity, Sulawesi palm civets are more of a specialist on palm fruits than the Malay civet. Additional fruit foods include cultivated bananas and papayas. Grass was also found in scats, probably eaten for its fibrous benefits. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • eggs
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit


As the largest native predator on Sulawesi, this civet does not have conspicuous anti-predator adaptions. Number killed by humans and other mortality statistics are unknown.

Ecosystem Roles

These civets are good dispersers of seeds given their preference for palm fruits and the large range of forest types they are found in on Sulawesi. They are also an important predator as the largest mammalian carnivore on the island. (Corlett, 2007; Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is evidence that Sulawesi palm civets are sometimes eaten if caught accidentally. Their pelts are sometimes kept as trophies if killed raiding livestock or caught accidentally. They have no great economic value to humans and is not specifically sought out. Sulawesi palm civets could be considered a pest controller, because of the large portion of rodents in their diet. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Sulawesi palm civets are known to raid chicken coops. (Wemmer and Watling, 1986)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Population estimates are difficult because of data limitations and their reclusive nature. The lower elevation forest habitat of the Sulawesi civet is at risk from extensive logging. The high elevation forest is less at risk due to the difficulty of access for humans. Some suggest that these civets could be at risk from hunting, but the native peoples of Sulawesi do not harvest civets due to their distasteful perineal gland. When hunting does occur it takes place in the lowland range of the civet. Sulawesi civets live in several protected areas: including The Dumoga Bone National Park, Gunung Ambang Reserve, Tangkoko-Batuangas Reserve, Lore Lindu Reserve, and Morowali Reserve. (Brooks, et al., 1999; Corlett, 2007; Schreiber, et al., 1989; Wemmer and Watling, 1986)


Sarah Meierotto (author), University of Alaska Fairbanks, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Washington, Laura Podzikowski (editor), Special Projects.



uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


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


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


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


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.


uses sight to communicate


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


Brooks, T., S. Pimm, V. Kapos, C. Ravilious. 1999. Threats from deforestation to montane and lowland birds and mammals in insular South-east Asia. Journal of Animal Ecology, 68/6: 1061-1078.

Corlett, R. 2007. The Impact of Hunting on the Mammalian Fauna of Tropical Asian Forests. Biotropica, 39/3: 292-303.

Lee, R., J. Riley, I. Hunowu, E. Maneasa. 2003. The Sulawesi palm civet: expanded distribution of a little known endemic viverrid. Oryx, 37/3: 378-381.

Lydekker, R. 1896. A Hand-book to the Carnivora, Part I. Cats, Civets, and Mungooses. London: Edward Lloyd, Limited.

Schreiber, A., R. Wirth, M. Riffel, H. Van Rompaey. 1989. Weasels, Civets, Mongooses, and their Relatives: An Action Plan for the Conservation of Mustelids and Viverrrids. ICUN/SSC Mustelid and Viverrid Specialist Group: 1-99. Accessed October 08, 2012 at

Veron, G. 2001. The Palm Civets of Sulawesi. Small Carnivore Conservation, 24: 13-14. Accessed November 12, 2012 at

Wemmer, C., D. Watling. 1986. Ecology and Status of the Sulawesi Palm Civet Macrogalidia musschenbroekii Schlegel. Biological Conservation, 35: 1-17. Accessed October 08, 2012 at

Wemmer, C., J. West, D. Watling, L. Collins, K. Lang. 1983. External Characters of the Sulawesi Palm Civet, Macrogalidia musschenbroekii Schlegel 1879. Journal of Mammology, 64/1: 133-136. Accessed October 08, 2012 at

Wilting, A., J. Fickel. 2012. Phylogenetic relationship of two threatened endemic viverrids from the Sunda Islands, Hose's civet and the Sulawesi civet. Journal of Zoology, 288/3: 184-190. Accessed December 08, 2012 at