40 civets and a hunt for home

By Tiasa Adhya
Published: Thursday 08 July 2010

Steady residential development has left birds, snakes and small carnivores in the wetlands around Kolkata homeless. But the civets have found a unique way of adapting to the changing habitat: 40 of them have occupied the top floor of an old building in Kasba, Kolkata’s suburb. The building’s owner died 20 years ago. Its ground floor is occupied by a tenant family, and the third one is home to civet families.

But the happy days seem numbered for the cat-mongoose-like creatures because the land on which the building stands has been handed over to South Calcutta Law College.

People have, however, come forward to support the civets. The locality’s residents protested as soon as some workers tried to destroy the plot’s mango trees, which are civets’ resting place. Shamik Gupta, an IUCN member, asked for relocation of civets.

“Felling of trees is illegal. We asked for a suitable relocation of the civets before felling of trees. There is no point in cutting the trees; the fruits are a source of food for these creatures,” she said. The construction work was stalled.

Last December, the forest department announced the plan to release the civets in the forests of north Bengal. “But civets need to live near human habitation. Their diet includes fruits and small rodents, which would not be found in the forests of north Bengal,” said Sujit Chakraborty, former director of the Zoological Survey of India. “Trees in north Bengal are too tall. Civets require fruit-bearing, medium-sized trees with horizontal branches to rest on.”

Civets are very shy animals and weak-hearted too, so tranquilizing them will not be easy, said Soumendra Nath Ghosh of the West Bengal Biodiversity Board.

The forest department is still on the lookout for a suitable place to relocate civets.

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