Do our civets deserve a bad representation in the media?

This blog post is in response to the AsiaOne article “Breaking roofs, trashing kitchens: Bedok residents plagued by civets invading their homes” (29 Nov 2022)

Do our civets deserve a bad representation in the media?

“Trashing”, “plagued” and “invaded” – almost every other word in the title of the article gives off a negative and frightening feel, especially if one may be unaware of one of our nocturnal wildlife, the common palm civets.

The civet in question, the common palm civet (Paradoxurus musangus) is adapted to urban areas especially with low housing density and with small patches of vegetation and fruit trees. They are usually solitary, unless it’s a mother with young. They are often shy and only venture out under the cover of darkness. These small forest patches are an important refugia for these shy civets to retreat back to rest in the day and only move out to forage for fruits and sometimes, small insects or prey.

For every human-wildlife conflict, there is always an interplay of factors – humans, animals and we often forget about the immediate environment. The residents at Jalan Chempaka Puteh (in Bedok) stay in a civet hotspot area. This means that there is a higher chance of encountering civets naturally. Human-wildlife encounters can be challenging and feel unfamiliar for residents in the midst of it and sometimes, they might not be aware of other solutions besides trapping. While trapping can remove civets, it is not a wildlife friendly solution, as civets might be injured in the process and it could also be temporary, if the premises (the environment) persist to be attractive to the civets.

A more preemptive and permanent approach would be to safely exclude civets from the premises. This means that entry points need to be safely closed up so that their house/property would not become a target for opportunistic wildlife looking for a snack. Professional help is available and could be sought so that the civets can be safely excluded and no young civets are left trapped within the premises.

Human-wildlife conflict is always complex but with time and effort, effective and wildlife friendly solutions can be found. Residents in the midst of such conflict need to know that there are groups/agencies willing to have a conversation and listen in to the problems that they face. It will take time but the end goal for both parties are the same, as we spare thought to both residents and the civets. As Singapore moves towards a City in Nature vision, we all have a part to play in attaining human-wildlife coexistence and it starts from a little more awareness and consideration for others, which include people, our living space and our wildlife neighbours.

If you would like to refer to more resources:

Fung Tze Kwan and Xu Weiting (NUS)


Civets in artwork

It is hard to get civets in photographs, let alone in artwork. In the last month of 2016, we received two lovely common palm civet artwork submissions.

The first is from Henrietta Woo. She chose to take up the challenge of drawing Mr Kinky Tail for one of her drawing classes. Some of you might be familiar with Mr Kinky Tail. He/she is an urban civet that was sighted in Opera Estate, Singapore. Nonetheless, Mr Kinky Tail will always remain as a very special civet.


Henrietta’s artwork of Mr Kinky Tail. Thanks for keeping the memory of Mr Kinky Tail alive, Henrietta!

Xu Weiting- civet in daylight

Mr Kinky Tail in broad daylight

The second is of a common palm civet on a figging tree. This watercolour painting was done by Mireille Murphy. This was inspired by civet sightings on Frasers’ Hill. The drawing truly reflects a common palm civet’s frugivorous habits. Civets can occasionally be found in figging trees and sometimes, if you are in luck, you might even find more than one individual. Did you notice another unusual characteristic about this civet? Instead of the usual black tail, there are some individuals which have a white or off white-tipped tail. Such unique characteristics are useful in allowing researchers to identify specific individuals in an area.


Amazing common palm civet water colour painting by Mireille Murphy


Doesn’t it look like this civet with a white-tipped tail?

Civet sightings are hard to come by, so if you do have the fortune of urban civets visiting your house or have seen civets in your neighbourhood, please do share with us your sightings here. As 2016 comes to an end, we carry on with the hope that more people here in Singapore and in the rest of Southeast Asia will come to have a better understanding and appreciation of our native urban carnivoran, the common palm civet. And hopefully these efforts will translate into positive actions for civets, such as reducing the exploitation of wild civets for farmed kopi luwak trade or promoting co-existence between civets and humans in urban landscapes.