Tue, 11 Apr 2000

Sulawesi civet captured in Lore Lindu park

By Richard Smithers

LORE LINDU, Central Sulawesi (JP): A rare Sulawesi civet cat, one of the world's least-known carnivores, has been captured alive in Lore Lindu National Park.

Although first described by scientists more than 100 years ago, the civet has been sighted only a handful of times since, despite extensive searches. The secretive creature is Sulawesi's top predator after the python and an acrobatic climber renowned for being able to descend trees headfirst.

The young male musang, as it is called locally, was caught recently by villagers and has been released in the National Park after being filmed for a New Zealand nature television documentary. It weighed 9 kg and measured 130 cm from head to tail. The civet was released in the park's mountain forest away from human predators.

Ecologist Duncan Neville, manager of The Nature Conservancy's Lore Lindu National Park project, said finding the civet was a scientific landmark for the National Park.

"The Sulawesi civet is a magnificent, clever and athletic creature," Neville said. "It is one of the most important mammal species in Sulawesi."

Neville said that the civet was so rare that, prior to its recent capture, the New Zealand television crew spent three months unsuccessfully trying to film one in the National Park. The crew flew back to Indonesia as soon as they were told that a specimen had been successfully captured. Previously, the civet had not been photographed since 1983, Neville said.

"This is an animal that we should know much more about in Indonesia. Seeing the civet in the flesh made me realize again why we need to work hard to preserve these forests so animals like this can flourish," he said.

Despite being in a national park, the civet's forest habitat is under constant pressure from illegal agricultural clearing, hunting and rattan (cane) collection.

The civet was caught by villagers under the direction of Yulisan Sango, a sub-section head of the Lore Lindu National Park management organization (BTNLL). Yulisan, who originally worked with the New Zealand documentary team, continued looking for the civet a year after the television crew abandoned its search and left Sulawesi.

Known scientifically as Macrogalidia muschenbrooki, the civet eats small birds, mammals, palm fruit and eggs.