Civet roadkill recovery – small actions can save the lives of wildlife

Two days before Christmas 2014, I came into office expecting an uneventful day. Not long after I reached campus, I received a notification from Nurliyana Omar, an Otterman Holt graduate who previously conducted a research on the fishtail palm (Caryota mitis). Liyana reported a common palm civet roadkill carcass along Clementi Road, at the NUS Arts Faculty entrance on the first left lane.

This was the third civet roadkill reported to us in the month of December.

Once a roadkill is reported, it is always a race against time and traffic to recover an intact carcass. We could not retrieve the first civet roadkill at Goodwood Hill, reported to us by Dr Darren Yeo, as by the time Tze Kwan arrived at the scene, the civet had already been crushed by multiple vehicles. Instead, tissue and hair samples were collected and deposited in the cryo collection in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.

Therefore when I received the notification from Liyana, I quickly gathered the necessary equipment for carcass recovery and headed over to the Arts Faculty via the ridge. Even before I had a visual of the body, I could smell a whiff of pandan-like musk at the traffic junction. I looked across and saw a long slender black tail at the edge of the road metal railing. My heart sank. It was a common palm civet.

    The civet carcass was moved from the road to the side using wet tissues.

Someone moved the common palm civet carcass from the road to the side using wet tissues.

I took photos of the carcass and realized that the civet had sustained many injuries due to the impact from the vehicle. The body was distorted and there was blood on its face and hind leg. After taking the photos, I put on gloves and gingerly placed the civet into a bag to carry back to Science Faculty. As I carried it back to the ridge, I could not help but feel the weight of this usually elusive nocturnal animal. It was alive and well just a couple of hours ago.

Many times I would think of how we can help these last wild urban carnivores and many other wildlife that live in coexistence with human in Singapore’s urban landscape. It could be a small action such as driving a little slower, slowing down our pace of life to appreciate nature or even sharing these wonders with our friends and family. This can make all the difference between life and death for an animal. Every person can be the catalyst for change. As 2014 draws to a close, I hope that each of us can do our part and make a difference for wildlife in Singapore.

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All about the common palm civet in art!

We cannot wait to share with you this lovely hand drawn poster of a common palm civet by Maria Vladimirova! With an aim to raise awareness of various animal species among her Russian audience, she has been creating many other animal artworks which she shares on her website and Instagram.

Thanks to Instagram’s recommendations that we came across Maria’s fossa drawing. The fossa drawing was part of her efforts to draw one new animal per day in a #365challenge. We quickly took this opportunity to contact Maria and ask if it was possible to help draw a poster for the common palm civet. We were nervously waiting for her response and she quickly agreed. Within the span of two days, Maria completed the artwork!

Here are some of the interesting information snippets about the common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus). Civets have managed to survive urbanisation and with enough vegetation, they can also be found in urban areas.


Do you know what the civets eat? Yes, the civet is an omnivorous animal and it feeds largely on fruits.

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Lastly, one of the several threats to the civets in Southeast Asia is the kopi luwak trade. In some farms, civets are caught from the wild, fed only coffee berries and battery farmed to produce the expensive civet coffee. You can read about more about the threat of kopi luwak to civets at the Project LUWAK Singapore.

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Stitching all these individual information together into a civet poster, here is the final product!

25 common palm civet

This poster can also be viewed on Maria’s Instagram (

Thank you Maria and her partner for doing up this artwork in a short period of time! We really appreciate your effort to help raise awareness for the common palm civet.

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Did you see a civet inside the Science Centre?

Does the name Alfred Russel Wallace sound familiar? Heard of this name mentioned in your class? The Island Adventurer, a one year exhibition at Science Centre Singapore is dedicated to Wallace’s adventure in expeditions and field studies.

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The Island Adventurer – Alfred Russel Wallace exhibition at Science Centre, Singapore

As an accompaniment to this exhibition, the Science Centre staff has designed a Gallery Trail booklet for secondary school students. We are very glad to know that the booklet introduces our local wildlife such as the common palm civet, Sunda pangolin and oriental whip snake.

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Wildlife in Sg  2

Besides highlighting the common palm civet as part of our local wildlife, the team also managed to include a short fact on Kopi Luwak (civet coffee) which is sold in Singapore and in our neighbouring countries.  Find out more about Kopi Luwak and the cruelty behind the trade here: Project LUWAK Singapore.

All of these animals are part of our precious local natural heritage. In order to protect this precious heritage, we can all do our part by raising awareness for wildlife in Singapore so that more people have a better understanding and appreciation to co-exist with them.

Special thanks to Xu Wanwei and Joanna Yeo who helped to design this booklet.

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A sneak peek into the life of a civet through camera trapping!

In recent years, camera traps have become the must-have equipment for any wildlife research.

The camera trap is a camera encased in a box which can be configured to capture a photo when triggered by the body heat or movement of an animal. This research technique has helped to shed light on many previously unknown secretive inhabitants of the forest. The photos have allowed researchers to detect presence, count abundance and also observe the behaviour of typically shy wildlife or animals that are located in remote areas. Similarly, for a nocturnal and elusive animal like the common palm civet, the camera trap technology has allowed us to have a sneak preview of the life of a common palm civet in Singapore.

Common palm civet in Singapore

Common palm civet in Singapore

Currently, there are many conservation programmes that utilise camera traps in their studies.  It is always exciting to retrieve and review the data from a camera trap because you will never know what surprises are stored within the tiny SD card.

We are especially glad that various species of civets have been occasionally photographed in camera traps around Asia. The Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Programme based in Vietnam, has kindly shared with us three photos of small Indian civet and common palm civets captured by their camera traps.

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Small Indian civet

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Common palm civet

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Close-up of a common palm civet

Another programme that has captured exciting civet photos is the Wildlife Conservation Society – India. They have managed to get a photo of the Brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni), a rare Western Ghats endemic species.

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With the improvement of camera trap technology, some even have video recording capabilities. The ability to capture video has allowed the camera traps to record short animal behavioural footages. One of our favourite video clip of a common palm civet was taken by Wildlife Conservation Society in Uganda, where a palm civet was startled by a small rodent.

Camera traps can provide valuable information to help us better understand the ecology of the civet and many other species as well. The possibilities of the use of camera traps in wildlife research and conservation are limitless and there is still much work to be done. If you are interested in this field, do consider starting a local camera trap research project with relevant permits and there will be surprises awaiting you!

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A first-hand experience in civet research: Reflections of a civet poop scooper

A first-hand experience in common palm civet research: Reflections of a volunteer field assistant who helped out with a civet diet study

By Steward Lee,  2013.

“In my attempt to experience the local biodiversity and conservation scene, I volunteered to help out Tze Kwan in her civet research during my summer break. Here are some of my thoughts from the various experiences from my 2 months of field work and a civet poop sorting workshop/sharing session.

Experience as a civet poop scooper

Armed with enthusiasm and 100plus every week, I ventured to Pulau Ubin to help collect data to learn more about what civets eat and their potential ecological role as seed dispersers.

Through the fieldwork, I learnt that civets are omnivores, eating mainly fruits and sometimes insects, birds and rodents. From Tze Kwan’s galore of scat collection, there seemed to be frequent items found in their poop. For plants, it was fishtail palm, while animals were mainly insect parts. Cool right? Since civets are nocturnal, we do not see them around during the day. However, with poop around means there are civets around, but the intriguing question is, where do they hide in the day? Well, that will be another question for the future!

My job was to help spot and collect the often conspicuous civet scats as we cycled along trails. It was not long before I realize that they had the preference of leaving their mark right in the middle of trails. This conspicuous location could possibly be to mark territories but civets sure have the knack of selecting spots with good sceneries too.

Scooping civet poop!

Of course it wasn’t all work and no play. Every trip was an opportunity to learn and appreciate Singapore wildlife. Tze Kwan and the other research helpers were my nature guides as they kept me entertained by sharing both their knowledge and experiences. I have definitely learnt a lot, from the biodiversity of Singapore and Ubin, the ecosystems it possesses and of course on civets. Right now, I am even pretty confident of discerning the calls of kingfishers and the oriental pied hornbills.

I often marvel at the birds, insects or plants that my keen-eyed teammates pointed out. Many times, I would have so conveniently overlooked them. Their enthusiasm was contagious and definitely kept my spirits high. Having nature enthusiasts as company really brought my nature appreciation to a deeper level.

Learning from the outdoors to indoors

Besides helping Tze Kwan with her fieldwork,  I also attended a civet sorting workshop and sharing session organised by the civetgirls where I learnt a couple of new information about the civets.

Civet poop sorting workshop!

From Weiting’s sharing on the urban civets, I learnt that the common palm civets can be found in our urban environment and are our last native urban carnivore. Due to their close proximity to our daily lives, I believe awareness and understanding is important to ensure peaceful coexistence.

For me, it is alarming that many cases of wildlife/conflict issues are often influenced by an outspoken minority. Majority of the public attitudes are positive or neutral towards the existence of wildlife within the vicinity of their living quarters but it is unfortunate that it is often the outspoken few that sways the action. Equipped with this knowledge from Weiting, I am sure that passing it on would help to create and increase awareness. This would be a great step forward if more encompassing solutions that promote coexistence can be agreed on.

Ongoing research by Weiting and Tze Kwan would reveal much more about the behavior, importance and the role that civets  play in both the urban and forested environments. With continued efforts to increase awareness by research, outreach or by word of mouth, I am positive that not just civets but urban wildlife can peacefully coexist with us. I am sure that we can respect and appreciate these animals as unique indispensable habitants of our ecology and country too.”

Thank you Steward for your help and time with my fieldwork!  I am glad you have learnt much about the common palm civet and our local biodiversity and are now involved in the conservation scene! All the best for your studies! – Tze Kwan

Happy Steward with Ubin durians! (Photo by Joys Tan)

Hours in the field are long and can be tiring, but it is an enriching journey and can be fun too, especially when it comes to collecting civet poop! Thank you all field assistants for your valuable help!


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Highland hiatus – civets and more civets!

In the last week of July (25th to 30th July 2013), NCRT (NUS Civet Research Team!) and two other friends managed to take a six day highland hiatus to Fraser’s Hill in Malaysia. It was our first time to Fraser’s Hill and we were really excited about this trip.

Fraser s Hill

Did you know that Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands are both located on the same mountain range (Titiwangsa Mountain range) as Fraser’s Hill?

Each day was lined with many activities. We had a great time exploring while doing morning walks, afternoon treks and even evening spot-lighting. During a few trips, we had a few firsts –

1. Leeches. Walking in Singapore forests, we hardly encounter any leeches. But if you are a true biologist, you will know for places where there are leeches, there will be lots of animals around. However, we also heard quite a few horror stories about leeches describing how they will inch and wave to you to search for its next meal. On the first day, we encountered two that had attached themselves to Tze Kwan’s shoes and we did not take any more chances ever since.

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Precautionary measures all ready!

Out came the leech socks and even then, we still encountered leeches, but fortunately, we did not get any bites. We took the chance to get photos of these hungry leeches and here is a tiger leech trying to search for its next meal.

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Tiger leech

2. Birds! Fraser’s Hill is known for its bird diversity. We also managed to see some of the iconic birds of Fraser’s Hill such as the silver-eared mesia and were constantly surrounded by lovely bird songs in the morning. One of the highlights was a photograph of the majestic-looking Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle on our very last day while heading down from Fraser’s Hill.

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Blyth’s Hawk-Eagle

3. Mammals, especially civets! During our walks, we managed to see diurnal animals such as squirrels and White-thighed surili. We could also hear the calls of the siamang troop from far away. What we love best is the civet diversity in these hills. Over the course of six days, we managed to see three different species, the common palm civet, the masked palm civet and the small-toothed palm civet. 

We even saw a sleeping small toothed palm civet taking a rest! It was a chilly evening after a short rainfall, but this civet was unfazed and it just used its tail to shield itself from the cold.

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Sleeping small toothed palm civet

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Common palm civet in a piper tree

We were told that it is quite difficult to see these three species within such a short period of time. Each civet sighting was an exciting moment for us as we took a closer look to see which species we have encountered.

4. Local outreach

On the second last day of our stay, we helped our friends to conduct a “Mammals of Fraser’s Hill” workshop for the local schools. This is the first of such workshops to be conducted for local students. During the course, the students learnt about their local wildlife, had fun colouring their favourite mammal and learnt about camera trapping. During the workshop, we also picked up the malay names for some of these animals. For example, the common palm civet is “musang pulut”, otter is “memerang” and slow loris is “kongkang”.

We helped out with the camera trap station and taught the students how scientists use this technology to learn more about wild animals that are shy and elusive. The students also got to try out how to set up the cameras and do the “walktest” pretending to be the animals that the camera trap may capture.

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Students getting ready to test the camera traps

Some of the students were really excited about the testing of the camera trap. Below are some camera trap photos of the students in action. 

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We were glad that the workshop was a successful one, It was really great for the students to have fun while learning about the animals in their backyard. We hope these students will be a positive influence to their family and community and that  there will be many more of such outreach events to raise public awareness of the local wildlife of Fraser’s Hill.

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Happy kongkang (slow loris) action and faces after the wildlife session

We had a great six days of close encounters with nature and it was fun travelling with like-minded friends. Such short breaks are hard to come by and we really treasure the memories from the trip. In the meantime, it is time to focus on our own studies, back to work and see you soon, Fraser’s Hill!

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Aik-aik was a sweet dog that we met at Fraser’s Hill. Unfortunately, we did not manage to spend much time with him. Till next time, Aik-Aik. Stay good and healthy!

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“Angry Civet Cat” of Project 365 Sketches by Ivan Chew

Ivan Chew aka The Rambling Librarian sketches the “Angry Civet Cat” (#143: Project 365 Sketches) for his cute Angry Animal series this week!


Ivan wrote,

“Angry Civet Cat” (#143: Project 365 Sketches) 2013, Wed 23 May. As I was looking up Civet Cat pictures, I couldn’t help but associate those cute faces with Raccoons. Must be the black band across their eyes. Here’s an angry Civet Cat, looking indignant because of unscrupulous practices in harvesting “civet cat coffee”. #365sketches [CC-BY]”

Indeed, some members of the public have mistaken the common palm civet as the raccoon as they both have the characteristic eye masks across their eyes. We would then remind them that we do not have raccoons in Singapore and share some of the differences between the two animals! The common palm civet has three stripes along its back, spots on its sides and a long black tail which is as long as its body, sometimes with a white tip. Interestingly, although these two animals are found in different geographical locations, and are hardly related except that they are both in the Order Carnivora, both animals have managed to adapt to urban areas and thus face conflict issues with humans.

With the popularisation of Kopi Luwak (coffee made from coffee beans in civet poop), civet poop coffee may be threatening wild species of civets in the region. There have been increasing concerns regarding this trade as wild civets are being captured from wild, placed in small cages (civet farms), and are fed with coffee cherries only so that they excrete coffee beans used to make Kopi Luwak.

While fortunately, we do not have civet farms in Singapore, the common palm civet still faces other threats such as trapping, loss of habitats, being killed by dogs and being hit by cars. Hopefully, more people will embrace this native urban survivor, along with many of our other amazing wildlife, and we will have happy animals and people living in Singapore!

Do check out the many other drawings Ivan did as part of his Project 365 Sketches at

Thank you Ivan for this awesome sketch!

Update (2 March 2014):

For more information on the trade of kopi luwak, please watch the BBC documentary “Our World Coffee’s Cruel Secret – Kopi Luwak” and find out what goes into a cup of civet coffee.

If you wish to do something for the civets, please visit Project LUWAK Singapore and show your support!

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The story of a Sri Lanka civet rescue

We recently received a query from Tusita, who has found a baby civet which was only palm-sized, excluding its tail, in Sri Lanka. The baby has just opened its eyes and Tusita has been feeding it milk several times a day and he even had to wake up at 4 am to feed the hungry baby! Tusita asked how would one know when to start feeding the baby civet fruit pulp such as papaya and apples, so we shared that baby civets generally start to take fruits when their eyes are opened.

According to Tusita, he and his dog found the civet baby through its loud calls and saw it lying at the foot of a large tree in the morning . He estimated that the nest would have been at least 10m tall and was amazed that it survived the fall. He quickly took it away for fear that a dog, macaque, mongoose or even a snake would get to it. For this same reason, he felt that putting the baby back to where it was at night was not feasible due to the presence of other animals, so he will be taking care of it until it is ready to be released back to the wild.

Civet Cat 1

Check out the baby’s white-tipped tail, and the three stripes on its back, a typical characteristic of the common palm civet. It is starting to have its characteristic black facial appearance too!

Palm Cat 1

We are glad that Tusita is providing care for this young baby and is dedicated to raising and returning it to the wild. We hope you will grow up strong and healthy, cute little fella!

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Common palm civet mum to the rescue!

We received a sighting record from Jenna who had a wonderful encounter with a civet mum and two babies right at her own home at 6:30am in the morning! Here we share her photographs that captured the amazing interactions of this civet family.

Common palm civets spotted!

A watchful mum. The common palm civet is a solitary animal except when the mum has babies.

Look at how agile the civet mum was!

It seemed like civet mum wanted her babies to leave the window grilles.

The young ones had some difficulty climbing back onto the roof, so mum came to their rescue!

Jenna told us that after about 15 mins, they finally managed to climb up and onto the other roof. How glad we were to hear that mum saved the day!

Common palm civets are highly skilled climbers and they are often found in trees in the wild. The urban civets such as this family have adapted to living in urban spaces and have learnt to utilise structures such as drains, electric wires and roofs to travel to different places. They love to eat fruits such as mangoes and rambutans so they may drop by a home garden occasionally. Sometimes, a pregnant civet mum may also raise her little family in the roof spaces. They are active at night and are generally shy but sadly, not everyone is willing to share a home with these animals.

Their climbing abilities never fail to amaze us!

This civet family is lucky to have met Jenna, who accepted their presence readily. When asked if we could share her photos on this blog, she replied, “Please go ahead and use the photos as you wish. I am excited to be part of this as I love animals too.”

Our last wild urban native carnivore

This is heartening to hear and hopefully, more people will appreciate the existence of our native carnivore like Jenna does. What can be more exciting than to be able to enjoy wildlife in our own backyard!

Thank you Jenna for this lovely sighting and her friend, Pei Yan for encouraging her to do so.

Please share your sightings of the common palm civets with us at

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Common palm civet seen at UTown NUS

It was the start of the recess week on the 25th February 2013, and this would usually be a sleepy and uneventful break during the university semester.

However, this was not an ordinary start to the break as I woke up with a Facebook status tag from one of our graduate student, Anuj Jain on an encounter with a common palm civet in University Town, right in our own campus. During the encounter, Anuj was with some of his friends. He mentioned that after the civet noticed them, it quickly ran into the pepper plant undergrowth at Town Green and then climbed up onto the Angsana tree for a few minutes.

Fortunately for us, Avinash Bahirvani, one of Anuj’s friend managed to capture some photographs of this elusive, nocturnal animal within NUS.

Are you looking at me?

The common palm civet is an adept tree climber and can skilfully maneuver around tree branches

The civet is different from a domestic cat. It has a very long tail and a masked facial pattern similar to that of a bandit.

Every year, there are several sightings of common palm civets at different localities around campus. However, most of the time, we only know of their presence through the appearance of scats the next morning. Civets mainly move around at night and often shy away from humans, hence, they are rarely spotted.

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A neat pile of civet scat consisting mainly of fishtail palm seeds along Kent Ridge Road (Photo by Koh Choon Yen)

The common palm civet is the last wild native carnivore that has managed to survive urbanisation and can co-exist with humans in urban areas. Therefore, it is really great to see the photographs of this individual in campus. We definitely hope to see them around more often. Now that you know what a civet looks like, if you spot them around your hall during your late night activity, do share this news with us at this link.

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