Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 September 2019 | 11(12): 14490–14495



Winter food habits of the Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Mammalia: Carnivora: Viverridae) in Patna Bird Sanctuary, India


Khursid Alam Khan 1, Jamal Ahmad Khan 2, Khursheed Ahmad 3  & Narendra Mohan 4


1,2 Department of Wildlife Sciences, Near Sir Syed House, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh,

Uttar Pradesh 202002, India.

3 Division of Wildlife Science, Faculty of Forestry, Benihama, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology, Benihama , Ganderbal, Jammu & Kashmir 191201, India.

1,4 Wildlife Institute of India, Chandrabani, Dehradun, Uttarakhand 248001, India.

1 (corresponding author), 2, 3,





Abstract: Food habits of the Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus were investigated using scat analysis method, a technique widely used to study small and medium sized mammals.  We analyzed 112 scats of Common Palm Civet between November 2012 and March 2013 from the Patna Bird Sanctuary and found a total of nine food items.  Out of 112 scats, 32.09% scats contained three food items, 29.62% scats had two items, 24.69% scats contained four prey items, and 3.7% scats had seven prey items.  The results show that the Common Palm Civet is more frugivorous (ca. 39.28%) than insectivores (ca. 29.46%).  Percent frequency of occurrence showed that insects contributed maximum in the diet of Civet (29.46±2.29) followed by fruits of Ficus religiosa (19.64±1.13), Prosopis juliflora (11.60±0.18), and Date Palm (Phoenix sylvestrix) (8.03±0.23), while birds contributed 9.82±0.02 and rodents 6.25±0.44.  Rufous-tailed Hare (Lepus nigricollis ruficaudatus) (1.78±0.96) contributed the minimum in the Common Palm Civet diet.  PBS is an Important Bird Area site and it harbours thousands of migratory birds during winter.  But the results show that birds are a less preferred diet item of the Common Palm Civet.


Keywords: Civet, diet, food preference, frugivorous, insectivores, scat analysis, Uttar Pradesh.






Editor: Mewa Singh, University of Mysore, Mysuru, India.           Date of publication: 26 September 2019 (online & print)


Manuscript details: #4165 | Received 29 March 2018 | Final received 31 August 2019 | Finally accepted 07 September 2019


Citation: Khan, K.A., J.A. Khan, K. Ahmad & N. Mohan (2019). Winter food habits of the Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Mammalia: Carnivora: Viverridae) in Patna Bird Sanctuary, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa 11(12): 14490–14495.


Copyright: © Khan et al. 2019. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  JoTT allows unrestricted use, reproduction, and distribution of this article in any medium by adequate credit to the author(s) and the source of publication.


Funding: None.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Author details: Mr. Khursid Alam Khan is a PhD scholar in Department of Wildlife Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University, and currently working as a Project Associate in Wildlife Institute of India Dehradun. He has completed his masters and MPhil degree in Wildlife sciences Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh.  Dr. Jamal A. Khan is a Chairman and Professor in Department of Wildlife Science, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. Dr. Khursheed Ahmad is a Head of Division in Division of Wildlife Science, Benihama, Ganderbal, SKUAST-K, Jammu & Kashmir, India.  Mr. Narendra Mohan is field biologist in Wildlife Institute of India Dehradun.


Author contribution: The data was collected by KAK and NM, while the analysis and paper writing is done by KAK under the supervision of JAK and KA.


Acknowledgements: We are thankful to the Department of Wildlife Science Aligarh Muslim University for logistics support.  KAK is thankful to professor Wazahat Hussain, professor H.S.A. Yahya, for identification of the seeds and feathers and Dr. Satish Kumar, Mr Rohit Chaudhary and Mr Asim Rizvi for their valuable comments and suggestion.  KAK is also thankful to the forest staff of PBS.








There are eight species of civets found in India (Prater 1971; Menon 2014).  Among them, the Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus (Viverridae) is a small size carnivore with widespread distribution in central, southern and southeastern Asian countries including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam (Pocock 1933; Duckworth et al. 2016).  In India, the Common Palm Civet is distributed throughout except in the desert zone and Punjab and lives in tropical forests, plantations, fruit orchards and human-settlements, often residing in eaves of houses or outbuildings (Prater 1971; Menon 2014).  Although widely distributed in Asia, the Common Palm Civet is a less studied animal in comparison to other carnivores (Joshi et al. 1995) and very little is known about its current status and ecology (Krishnakumar & Balakrishanan 2003).  The Common Palm Civet is listed in Appendix III in the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), and as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, and Schedule II in Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 of India.

The Common Palm Civet is an omnivorous and opportunistic forager.  Its diet varies according to habitat and season (Jothish 2011).  It is a nocturnal species and feeds on a variety of foods including fruits and flesh (Joshi et al. 1995; Grassman 1998; Krishnakumar & Balakrishanan 2003).  In forested areas, it is primarily frugivorous, feeding on berries and pulpy fruits including those of figs and palms and is an effective seed disperser (Rabinowitz 1991; Corlett 1998; Nakashima et al. 2010).  It is often considered a pest because of its raiding of coffee plantations, other fruit crops, and poultry (Prater 1971).

Direct observations of feeding behaviour are often difficult under field conditions.  Scat analysis is one of the primary tools used to assess carnivore diets, especially when focusing on individual prey items.  Scat analysis has been used to know the dietary composition of major carnivores throughout the world (Schaller 1967; Jethva & Jhala 2004; Giannatos et al. 2005).

Hairs are the most important part for identifying prey species consumed by predators.  Different species have different kinds of shape, size and structure of medulla and cuticle (Teerink 1991).  The present paper reports the winter food habits of the Common Palm Civet in the Patna Bird Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh, India.


Materials and Methods


Study Area

PBS is situated in Jalesar Tehsil of the Etah District of Uttar Pradesh.  The bird sanctuary is situated at 27.5260N–78.3200E. The PBS has 109ha area which contains a small jheel along with a track of date palm trees (Phoenix sylvestrix).  Patna Jheel is a typical rain-fed wetland.  The wetland can be categorised as natural fresh water, shallow wetland or jheel (Rahmani & Daniel 1997).  The eastern part of the sanctuary is covered with dense Date Palm trees (Fig. 1) while the boundary of the sanctuary and trails are covered with Prosopis juliflora.

More than 180 species of birds were reported from PBS (Ahmad & Javed 2000), and thousands of migratory birds visit every winter in this IBA site.  The Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Fishing Cat Prionailurus vivverinus, Indian Fox Vulpes bengalensis, and Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphrodites are common meso-predators of the area.  PBS has ample prey species like Indian Bush Rat Golunda ellioti, Rufous-tailed Hare Lepus nigricollis ruficaudata, and avian fauna.  There is a variety of tree species found in the sanctuary including Phoenix sylvestris, Prosopis juliflora, Ficus religiosa, Ficus recemosa, Acacia spp., Ziziphus spp., Pithecelobium dulce, Morus alba, Dalbergia sissoo, Azadiracta indica.  Beside these woody plant species, the sanctuary contains aquatic vegetation that consists of Hydrilla verticillata, Salvinia, Azolla, Ceratophyllum  demersum, Vallisneria spiralis, Potamogeton crispus, and Eichhornia crassipes.  On the outer reaches of the wetlands, Ipomea carnea and I. aquatica grow in excess (Ahmad & Javed 2000).





It is very complex to find each prey item contributing to the diet of a carnivore species by direct observation in the field.  Thus scat analysis method is broadly used to find out food habits of carnivores because of its non-invasive nature, easy collection and analysis (Korschgen 1980; Ackerman et al.1984; Reynolds & Aebischer 1991).  To determine the food habits of Common Palm Civet, we used the scat analysis method.  A total of 112 scats were randomly collected from the travel routes, trails, roosting sites (Image 1), and den sites which were present in different habitat types of the Sanctuary.

The scats of Common Palm Civet were identified based on their occurrence in more-or-less the same location as the roosting animal(s), elongated shape in nature and composition of undigested plant or animal matter; however, the ambiguous scats were not used in analysis.  The scats were collected from November 2012 to March 2013.  Scats were collected from identified dens of Common Palm Civets and stored in zipped polythene bags and additional information was recorded such as habitat, GPS coordinates, time and date of collection.  The collected scats were sun dried, and washed in running tap water through a sieve.  The remains, like hairs, feathers, seeds, bones, grasses were separated and sun dried for further identification of species and observation through microscope and macro lens.  At least 20 hairs were picked randomly from each scat.  The hairs were treated with xylene to see clear structure of medulla.  These hairs were mounted on permanent slides and observed under microscope to identify the prey species.  The hairs were compared with the already made reference slides and hair guard manual of Wildlife Institute of India (Bahuguna et al. 2010) made with the collected hairs during the study period from PBS.  The seeds which were not identified during the scat analysis were sown in pots and after germination these were identified by a taxonomist to avoid any possible error.

The percentage of occurrence of a prey item was calculated as the numbers of items of a specific prey item that were found to occur in scat and expressed as a percentage of all prey occurrences (Floyd et al. 1978; Weaver & Fritts 1979; Ackerman et al. 1984).  The frequency of occurrence of prey species in the scat was computed as the number of occurrence of each prey type divided by total number of scat analysed and expressed as percentage (Corbett 1989; Jethva & Jhala 2004).





In 112 scats, one to seven prey items were recorded (Table 1).  The maximum numbers of prey items (seven) were found in 3.70% scats, followed by six prey items in 9.87% scats while three, two and four prey items were found in 32.09%, 29.62%, and 24.69% scats respectively.  A single prey item was recorded in 8.73% of the scats. The decreasing order of frequency of occurrence found in the Common Palm Civet diet is presented in Fig. 2.

The maximum percent of occurrence was recorded for Insects (29.46±2.29) followed by Ficus religiosa seeds (19.64±1.13), Prosopis juliflora seeds (11.60±0.18), and Date Palm seeds (8.03±0.23), while the birds contributed (9.82±0.02) in Palm Civet diet (Fig. 1; Table 2).

Over all the Palm Civet is more frugivorous than insectivorous and carnivorous as the fruits contribute 39.28% of its diet, followed by insects 29.46% and mammals 21.42% (Table 3).  It is found that the Palm Civet scavenges on road killed jackal (3.57±0.75).

The seeds collected from the scat were sowed to identify the plant species and germination rate was found to be more than 90%.  Undigested parts of Ficus racemosa were also observed in the scats of the Common Palm Civet but due its ambiguity it was recorded as unidentified.  Among the insects termites encompassed the bulk in the Common Palm Civet diet.  Plastics were also recorded in the scats of the Common Palm Civet.





The Common Palm Civet is among the more frugivorous viverrids (Corlett 1998).  No systematic studies on its diet have been carried out in India (Singh 1982; Krishnakumar & Balakrishanan 2003); however, Krishnakumar & Balakrishanan (2003) and Jothish (2011) studied some aspects of food habit and diet composition of the Common Palm Civet and its role in seed dispersal.  Fruits have been recorded as a major component in the diet of the Common Palm Civet in studies carried out in different countries including Nepal (Joshi et al. 1995), Thailand (Rabinowitz 1991; Grassman 1998), and Myanmar (SuSu & Sale 2007).  Moreover, the study carried out in India also reviled that fruit is a predominant component (82% and 95%) in the Common Palm Civet diet (Krishnakumar & Balakrishnan 2003; Jothish 2011).  The present study also shows that the Common Palm Civet is more frugivorous (39.28%) than insectivorous (29.46%).  The fruit content is found less in the diet of the Common Palm Civet in comparison to earlier studies because of less availability of fruits in and around the PBS.

Bekele et al. (2008) observed a high rate of scavenging in human habitats by the African Civet Civettictis civetta in Ethopia.  Balakrishnan & Sreedevi (2007) observed that faeces of Small Indian Civets Viverricula indica often contained cooked rice and fish bone; however, we did not find any evidence of fish or cooked rice in the present study.  The high percentage of insects (29.46%) in the Common Palm Civet diet is perhaps because of their congregation habits around street lamps.  Most faeces contained two, three and four food items in the scats of Common Palm Civet, showing that there was a scarcity of food items for the palm civet while (Jothish 2011) suggested that the civet(s) ate a single source in bulk at a particular feeding time.  The frequent occurrence of grass leaves in the faeces (4.46±0.65 of total faeces) is consistent with other studies, pointing to a possible role of grass leaves in scouring the intestine and in the digestion process (Grassman 1998; Krishnakumar & Balakrishnan 2003; Balakrishnan & Sreedevi 2007; Mudappa et al. 2010).

Palm Civets ate at least 18 fruit species in Kerala (Jothish 2011), mostly from non-native plants (Nayar et al. 2006).  Krishnakumar & Balakrishnan (2003) identified only 10 fruit species from Common Palm Civet faeces in two semi urban habitats in Thiruvananthapuram, Grassman (1998) found 13 fruit species in faeces pooled from Common and Masked Palm Civet Paguma larvata in Kaeng Krachan National Park (Thailand) and SuSu & Sale (2007) found 31 types of fruits in Common Palm Civet faeces analysed from Hlawga, Myanmar.  In the present study eight fruit species were recorded from Common Palm Civet faeces.

The presence of jackal’s hair in the scats of Common Palm Civet shows that it is an opportunistic feeder.  The possibility of direct hunting on jackal is very rare but it may hunt on fawn of jackals as there is a good population of jackals in PBS.  Birds consisted of 9.82% in the Common Palm Civet diet and this number is very low as the PBS is well known as a congregation site of migratory as well as residential birds.  PBS is also an IBA site; however, birds contribute about 40% in the Golden Jackal diet in winter (Khan et al. 2017).  Feathers and bones of babbler (n=2) were also recorded in the Common Palm Civet scats.  A similar observation by Balakrishnan & Sreedevi (2007) on the stomach content of Small Indian Civets showed that only the head region of a babbler was chewed and feathers and body were left intact.

The civets are known for seed dispersal as the fleshy parts of fruits were digested by its digestive system but the seeds remained unaffected during this process.  Frugivores and carnivores may disperse seeds (Herrera 1989; Nakashima et al. 2010).  When an animal ingests fruits, the successful dispersal of the seeds depends on the feeding behaviour of the frugivores, after consumption and gut passage and the movement of animals.  The seeds collected from the faeces were undamaged and did not lose their viability after the gut passage.  When the seeds were sowed for the identification of species the germination rate was found about to be 90%.  According to studies (Jothish 2011) civets are threats for the poultry as they raid and kill the fowls.  But during this study we did not find any evidence of fowl hunting.



Table 1. Percentage of scats containing different number of prey items.

Number of prey item

Number of scats

Percentage of scat
























Table 2. Percent frequency of occurrence with standard error and confidence level.

Prey Item

Percentage occurrence

Standard Error


Level (95%)

Prosopis juliflora




Ficus religiosa
























Rufous-tailed Hare




Date Palm










Table 3. Percentage of food items according to the food habits of Common Palm Civet.

Food habit





No. of prey item












For figures and image – click here





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