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Civet chronicles
Published by Nixon AMA, Siddharth Rao, Karthik K, Ashraf NVK and Vivek Menon, 01 Dec 2010
Search for the Malabar Civet (Viverra civettina) in Kerala and Karnataka
The tiger is not the most endangered animal of India despite hoardings across the country proclaiming that it is. It is not even close to being the most endangered animal of India. Forget animal, even among mammals, there are many other species that are more endangered than the tiger. This is easily seen from the IUCN Red Lists. Critically endangered is the highest category of threat in these threatened listings that are worldwide the benchmark of endangerment. There are six species on the critically endangered list that are mammals found in India. The tiger is not critically endangered but comes in the next category of plain ‘endangered’. Not that this in way diminishes the importance of saving the tiger, not least for itself but also for the magnificent forests that it acts as a flagbearer for. There should, however, be at least as much concern over the other species that are most certainly more endangered than the tiger and that are found in India. Of these, the most endangered mammal may well be the Malabar civet. Last documented from a dead skin in 1990, this large dog-sized lowland forest carnivore has all but vanished from Malabar.

There have been in the intervening years few claims of naturalists having spotted one, but none have photographic or other irrefutable evidence to show its presence. All that remains, it seems are the faded memories of tribal hunters and the lingering scent of the civet in the nostrils of their hunting dogs. This search, elusive thus far, but promising in certain areas has been Schaller Conservation Surveys at its best. To seek, against all odds and find the current status of threatened mammals has been the unwritten motto of these surveys and as with the markhor, the chiru or the takin, this survey has been all about science and intrepidness trying to pit itself against an elusive quarry. In this case, alas, thus far still very much the most endangered mammal in India

Vivek Menon
Executive Director
Wildlife Trust of India
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