It’s World Animal Day!

World Animal Day is celebrated annually on the 4th of October. It was initiated to promote conservation and awareness efforts for endangered animals, so that members of the public would be aware of the existence of these animals and also the threats that they face. Gradually. World Animal Day evolved into a platform that actively advocates animal welfare, pertaining to all kinds of animals whether endangered or not.

In conjunction with World Animal Day, we’ve decided to take a look back on the existence of different species of the Viverridae family in Singapore. Yes, the common palm civet is part of the Viverridae, but in the past, it was not the only Viverridae species on the island. Due to rapid urbanization, many of these species no longer exist on our island, but there are a few that are still sometimes sighted by nature enthusiasts, such as:

malay civet

Malay civet, Viverra tangalunga (John Bakar, 2008)


Masked palm civet, Paguma larvata (Smith, 2011)


Large indian civet, Viverra zibetha (Tontantravel, 2014)


Three-Striped palm civet or small toothed palm civet, Arctogalidia trivirgata  (Nick Baker, 2015)

These civets are extremely elusive. For example, an image of the Malay civet was captured on a camera trap back in 2012, but no one has actually seen it in the flesh before. The rest of the civet species are restricted to Singapore’s nature reserves and are hardly observed. This shows us how they are, really, not too keen on getting our attention at all and would much rather be left alone. However, it is encouraging to know that there is still a handful of them amongst us, and that they haven’t fully deserted our garden city yet. If you are interested to find out the diversity and status of civets in Singapore, you can read the Chua et. al. (2012) report.

In addition, Singapore also used to be home to other species of the civet family. These include the large spotted civet (Viverra megaspila), small indian civet (Viverricula indica) and binturong (Arctictis binturong). The existence of the binturong on the island is indeterminate, for there was a recent capture of an individual in the Bukit Panjang area in 2004. Furthermore, the sighting of a certain “bear-like creature” in 2010 led to the speculation that the creature might actually be a binturong. Unfortunately, with no conclusive evidence and no subsequent sightings, that speculation was soon tossed out.

While it is sad that these species no longer exist in Singapore, it is also heartening to know that in spite of all the urban and industrial development that Singapore has gone through, the common palm civet’s adaptability has allowed it to survive here in urban Singapore.

However, we must remember that although some of these animals are rarely seen nowadays, we cannot be too quick to dismiss its existence in Singapore. After all, just because we do not see them does not mean that they do not live amongst us. This World Animal Day, let us know if you’ve had sightings of other species of Viverridae before, and maybe, if you’ve got a picture to share, send it over! We are always happy to hear from you. Meanwhile, let us spread the message and spirit of World Animal Day, to always be conscious of the existence of other creatures around us, to respect them and to always be kind towards them. 

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!