Shoulder height 40cm. Weight 10–15kg.
This bulky, long-haired, rather feline creature of the African night is primarily carnivorous, feeding on small animals and carrion, but will also eat fruit. It has a similar-coloured coat to a leopard: densely blotched with large black spots becoming stripes towards the head. Civets are widespread and common throughout Zambia in many habitats, and make frequent cameo appearances on night drives. Though occasionally called 'civet cats', this is misleading because they are far more closely related to the mongooses than the felines.Similar species
: The smaller, more slender tree civet
) is an arboreal forest animal with a dark brown coat marked with black spots. It really a resident of the equatorial forests, although is found in a few mountain areas on Zambia's Malawi border (including Nyika) as well as north of Mwinilunga. It is nocturnal, solitary, and largely arboreal – and so is very seldom seen.
The small-spotted genet
(Genetta genetta), large-spotted genet (Genetta tigrina) and rusty-spotted genet (Genetta rubignosa) are the most widespread members in Zambia of a large group of similar small predators (which even the experts often can't tell apart without examining their skins by hand). All the genets are slender and rather feline in appearance (though they are not cats), with a grey to gold-brown coat marked with black spots (perhaps combining into short bars) and a long ringed tail.
You're most likely to see them on nocturnal game drives or occasionally scavenging around game reserve lodges. They are found all over Zambia, even in urban areas if there is a plentiful supply of rodents. They are excellent climbers and opportunists, eating fruit, small birds, termites and even scorpions.