Hand-rearing the Common palm civet, Paradoxurus hermaphroditus

Baiju Raj M. V. and Prerna Sharma

Common palm civet

The Common Palm Civet  Paradoxurus hermaphrodites

The common palm civet, also known as Asian palm civet or the Toddy cat is a small nocturnal mammal commonly found in South and South-East Asia. They are extremely fond of toddy and are hence named Toddy Cat. Primarily omnivorous in feeding habits, they feed on a variety of ripened fruits and also consume several invertebrates.

Little is known about the breeding behaviour of the common palm civet. They reproduce throughout the year and can give birth to up to 5 young while the average litter size observed is 2 kittens. Kittens have been rescued throughout the year irrespective of the seasons.

Commonly seen in not only in forest but also in cities and rural areas, the common palm civet readily breeds under roof tops, false ceilings and abandoned buildings. They are usually seen by the people while cleaning dark and unused spaces of old buildings. Most rescues are initiated once the mother abandons the kittens after being disturbed.

Do’s & Don’ts prior to rescue

1. Ensure that the kitten is truly orphaned or abandoned prior to rescue. A mother cat that has simply gone in search of food will return to the young ones. DO NOT mistakenly rescue kittens with mothers.

2. The kittens can be watched from a distance for a couple of hours to see if the mother returns. Refrain from crowding as the mother will not approach the kittens if there are too many people around the kittens. Once the mother returns, the kittens can be left where they are. She will herself shift them away once they are a little older.

3. Much like the domestic cat, the mothers have often been observed shifting their young ones to another safe place once they have been disturbed.

4. Rescued kittens must be hand-raised and rehabilitated in an appropriate manner and released at the age of 3-4 months.

Hand-rearing Common palm civet kittens

Common palm civet baby

Rescued kittens are often found at a young stage before their eyes have even opened – they are extremely delicate and require a lot of care at this stage. The kitten’s eye’s open at approximately 10 days and such older kittens are easier to look after and most can even feed themselves.

Housing and caring for kittens

1. New born kittens with eyes closed: New-born kittens have delicate immune systems and require a lot of attention as they easily pick up infections. They can be housed in wooden or cardboard boxes and must be placed on a bedding of soft cotton cloth. The kittens must be placed on fresh, clean, dry cloth every time they soil the box. Even though the bedding will be changed frequently, the kittens must be placed back in the same box. Changing the box may make the kittens uncomfortable and insecure and require time for them to adjust to the new surroundings again – this must be avoided. The kittens also require external heat all day long at this vulnerable stage of their lives. Handling must be minimal to avoid the imprinting.

2. Older kittens with eyes open: Older kittens are comparatively easy to take care of. They may be housed in boxes until they are month old and shifted to enclosures thereafter. Again, refrain from changing the boxes or enclosures unnecessarily. Minimize handling to prevent negative imprinting on the animal which may have a negative impact on the animal’s survival after release.

Feeding Common palm civet kittens

Common palm civet fedding chart

“A rescue is completed when the animal is successfully released in its natural habitat”

Baiju Raj, M.V. Wildlife Biologist
Administrator – Agra Bear Rescue Facility
Member – Crocodile Specialist Group, IUCN
Special Officer – Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Govt. of India
Soor Sarovar Bird Sanctuary, Agra, India – 282007
Mob.: +91-9917190666
Email: baiju@wildlifesos.org
Website: http://www.wildlifesos.org

Prerna Sharma, Wildlife Biologist
Mob.: +91-9756604080
Email: prernawildlife@gmail.com

Document edited by Devna Arora
Published in 2013, Rehabber’s Den

First and foremost: if the animal is injured, it would be very obvious but is the animal truly orphaned? Please ensure if the animal is truly orphaned and not receiving parental care before you decide to pick it and take it home.

The second step would be to reach the animal to a rehabilitator or rescue center. If you are unaware of any in your vicinity, you will be able to get guidance from your local veterinarian, zoo or forest department.

This is not an uncommon situation to find yourself in. Although there are innumerable rescue centers and rehabilitators around, there may be times when there are none in your vicinity or you are unable to reach anyone in time for help. It may be best to prepare yourself to care for the animal in such an instance.

Much information on many topics and species is readily available online. Try to narrow down some pieces of information you can work with for a start. Also, get in touch with rescue centers or rehabilitators via phone or internet. Exchange digital photographs where necessary – it barely takes a few minutes. Even if unable to help you directly in person, any person or center will surely be willing to guide you through the care of the animal and help you in choosing an appropriate protocol for its care and rehabilitation.

It is a common myth that any baby (or adult) bird or mammal that has been touched by human hands will be killed by the rest of its group. This belief has most strongly been associated with baby birds, making people extremely reluctant to pick up and leave babies back in their nest even when the parents are around.

Over innumerable years, we have reunited many youngsters successfully, and inevitably, they have all been handled by human hands for several hours or days before being reunited. The key factor in the acceptance of the animal by the parent and other group members seems not to be the smell of human touch on the animal, but the actual process of reuniting.

A common mistake that most people make while attempting to reunite an animal is that they linger on too close and in turn, frighten the parents away. When trying to place an animal back in its nest, you must always keep a safe distance from the nest and the rest of the group so as not to scare them away. It is easy to get impatient and want to return to the animal after short intervals, but you must refrain from doing so, rather, observe from a distance. Success is more likely than not. I can hardly believe any parent would refuse to accept its own child just because a ‘human’ has touched it!

Some people have suggested the use of gloves to prevent direct contact with the animal. Although you may not always have gloves on you when you need to handle an animal and it isn’t completely necessary to have them when handling a rescue, you may choose to use them if you prefer to.

Yes, in all probability. But, no animal can be simply picked from captivity and released – that is when they will not survive. Animals need to go through a period of rehabilitation before they can be release. The technique and timeframe of rehabilitation will depend upon the species and individual in concern. Guidance on rehabilitating your animal can be sought from an experienced rehabilitator.

Wild animals belong in their natural habitats. Their true glory and happiness can only ever be seen in nature. As much as the babies will be attached to you and need you when they are young, they will soon outgrow their dependence on you and their heart will yearn to be outside, in the wild – where they belong.

Rather than waiting too long and releasing an animal that is not completely prepared, it is wise to plan the release, rehabilitate the animal and release a strong and prepared animal that will surely be able to survive in the wild.

If you truly love them and want what’s really best for them, I trust you will do what is best for your little one.

You can work with any species you are more comfortable with or all species that you come across. Often, we just work with animals as they come along but if you don’t feel particularly confident with any species, it might be better to transfer it to someone more confident. If you prefer to work with a certain species and feel your hands are better adapted for that species, you may specialize in it – its’ your call.

It takes lots of time, deep commitment and a genuine interest in the wellbeing of another animal’s life to enter the field of wildlife rehabilitation. Experience and knowledge are paramount as there are many that cannot be written or explained to you but those that you will learn through your own experience. Wildlife rehabilitation is a painstaking and time consuming task requiring your complete dedication and lots of sacrifices.

In a nutshell, the following are the basic qualities required to be a rehabilitator:

1. Genuine interest and concern

2. Dedication and sacrifice

3. Commitment to work in the best interest of the animal

4. Willingness to learn

5. Willingness to ask and look for help

6. Willingness to go the extra mile

7. Willingness to let go at the time of release

Many small animals, esp. urban species, can be rehabilitated and released from home as long as they have a natural distribution around your home. Many of these animals come back for visits until they are completely independent but sometimes for longer as they are closely bonded to the caregivers. Often, the animals may completely cease to return after release or some days after release. Although this seems disappointing, it a good sign demonstrating that the animal is completely independent and capable of surviving on its own without any assistance from you.

As rehabbers, our aim is always make the animal independent so it doesn’t feel the need to keep returning.

Yes, we can definitely attempt to help every animal that needs our help. But unfortunately, we may not always be able to cure every animal and restore it to its desired health status. As rescue workers, we come across a disproportionately disadvantaged population of animals, some of which are beyond human help. There may be times when it is in the best interest of the animal to euthanize it. But it is our duty and responsibility to make an informed choice and always work for the betterment and highest quality of life for the animal in concern.

Euthanasia, commonly known as ‘mercy killing’, is the act of killing someone to relieve it from unbearable and incurable suffering. Needless to say, euthanasia is always the very last resort after all other means to help the animal have failed and purely done to relieve an animal of unbearable pain and suffering. Euthanasia can be easily carried out by a veterinarian by means of an injectable drug – a quick and painless process. Your veterinarian will be able to advise you on the same. Ensure you have the appropriate permission to do so when dealing with protected species.