Dark Beauty of the Ghats
Endemic and rarely seen, Brown palm civets are nocturnal, arboreal, small carnivores that thrive in the high altitude tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats in India. We present a report from the northernmost part of their range.
Growing up in a small village may seem boring and lack-lustrous to many. But if you are a keen wildlife enthusiasts and the village is biodiversity hotspot, there are several reasons to never leave. I grew up in the village of Amboli, located in the northern Western Ghats of south Maharashtra. The place is famous for rare and endemic herpe to fauna, which is best explored at night. I regularly survey the forested patches around the village, at times guiding visiting tourists. On one such occasion, back in 2010, I saw something peeping from the branches above me. But as I directed my flashlight towards it, the shy animal vanished into the lush foliage. My guess was that it was a Common palm civet. The movement in the canopy above continued for some time. Determined to confirm what I saw, I stood below the Ficus tree to get another glimpse of the animal. When I finally did get a good look, I realized that it was not the Common palm civet, but something I was seeing for the first time. Its unique white-tipped tail was my key to finding out the exact species. Next day, I discussed the sighting with Girish Punjabi, a friend who was in Amboli for camera trapping exercises. He identified the mystery animal as the Brown palm civet, but noted that it is not found at such northern latitudes in the Western Ghats. As I was not with a camera, I failed to document this important species. But as luck would I have it, I got another chance. This time, my friend Harshad Bhosale, a herpatofauna expert, was carrying his camera as well. After getting some decent photographs, I was able to record this as the northernmost range of the endemic Brown palm civet.
The Brown palm civet (Paradoxurus jerdoni) is a nocturnal, and hence scarcely recorded, member of the civet family Viverridae. The uniformly coloured civet has a grizzled appearance. The tip of the tail is sometimes colored white or pale yellow. It is largely herbivorous and considered as a key mammalian disperser in the rain forests of Western Ghats. Solitary in nature, it forages actively in the night and prefers to rest in tree hollows, forks of branches and in thick canopy.
Author – Shubham Alave Images- Harshad Bhosale