African civet (Civettictis civetta)
A nocturnal, opportunistic mammal, the African civet (Civettictis civetta) is the largest African member of the Viverridae family, which includes genets, civets and linsangs. This species is easily distinguished by its stumpy front legs and its large hindquarters, which hold the rump high and the head low in an unusual posture characteristic of civets.
The African civet has a wide head with a pointy muzzle, small eyes and small, rounded ears. It has a ‘raccoon-like’ appearance with a black streak across the face and white on the forehead and along the sides of the muzzle. The legs, paws and upper side of the bushy tail tend to be black, and five incomplete white rings wrap around the tail, which is pointed towards the tip. Prominent white streaks edged in black extend from the African civet’s shoulders to behind the ears.
The African civet’s fur can range from white to pale yellow and rusty-brown. Interestingly, no two African civets are the same, as each has a unique coat pattern of dark brown or black spots and splodges. The irregular coat markings are most prominent along the back and hindquarters providing excellent camouflage in forests as well as more exposed habitats.
When threatened, the African civet emits astonishingly deep growls and fearsome coughs, and it can double in size by fluffing out its fur and erecting a crest of long, black hairs along its spine. The crest hairs can be up to 12 centimetres long, and raising these hairs reveals a light stripe along the African civet’s back. It is presumed that this stance also functions to impress other civets.