Wildlife & Biodiversity

Albino palm civet sighted in Odisha after 129 years in Satkosia Tiger Reserve

A partial albino common palm civet was last sighted in 1891 in the state’s Kandhamal district

 
By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 05 July 2021

The common palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphrodites) has made a comeback in Odisha after 129 years: Wildlife researchers have stumbled across one in Satkosia Tiger Reserve (STR) in the state’s Angul district.

The Asian palm civet, as it is also called, was caught in the camera trap in STR March 13, 2020. The finding was published in journal Zoo June 21.

A partial albino common palm civet, Saliapatani, was last sighted in 1891 by a noted wildlife researcher in the forests of Kandhamal district, claimed Gatikrushna Behera, a wildlife researcher with Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.

The common palm civet is a small mammal belonging to the family Viverridae. It can be found in southern and southeastern Asia. Their long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually grey in colour.  It is thought to lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating.

It is both terrestrial and arboreal, and shows a nocturnal activity pattern with peaks between late evening until after midnight. It is usually active between dawn and four in the morning, but less active during nights when the moon is the brightest, said Behera.

The vegetation of Satkosia largely conforms to north Indian moist deciduous forest, northern tropical dry deciduous forest, and moist peninsular low-level Sal. The terrain is undulating.

The photographs captured in the camera traps were installed to monitor tiger movement and prey distribution. The body below the shoulders had creamish-whitish fur, without any visible marks or spots, according to the photo captured.

Similarly, tails and legs lacked any pattern or pigmentation. The fur was pigmented only behind the ears and near eyes and close to the muzzle. White patches on the head below the eyes were distinctly visible, added Behera.

Albinism is a hypo-pigmentary disorder with a total lack of both melanins in hair, eyes and skin due to the heritable absence of functional tyrosinase enzyme in pigment cells affecting skin and hair. This resulting in a total white plumage / fur with red eyes. 

Albinism is controlled via inheritance by an autosomal recessive gene in all animal species, said Behera.

The coat colour variation in common palm civet in Satkosia calls for the need to revisit taxonomic and distribution status.  Aberrant colouration has been reported widely in pelage of mammals and can vary due to environmental and geographical variations, according to experts.

While it is known that the aberration is due to genetic mutations affecting the melanin metabolic pathway, the exact mutation responsible cannot be confirmed by limited visual observations of phenotype in wild individuals.

The extent and appearance of albinism varies and can be broadly described as complete albinism or leucism or partial albinism, said Behera.

The camera trap survey was done by Behera, along with wildlife researchers Vaishali Vasudeva, Sandep K Gupta and K Ramesh of WII as well as forest officials of STR Suvhendu Prasad Behera, Saroj Kumar Panda, P Ramasamy and  Pradeep Raj Karat.

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