The small-toothed palm civet (Arctogalidia trivirgata) is common throughout southeast Asia, southern China, and northeast India. They are arboreal and live primarily in evergreen forests, from sea level to at least 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) in altitude. They are nocturnal animals that feed mainly on fruit, as well as small animals. 

Using multiple wildlife monitoring methods can provide a more complete picture of wildlife in an area, and small-toothed palm civets are an excellent example of this. These civets can be a challenge to monitor in the wild. Some of the most common types of monitoring, such as camera traps, aren’t successful because the small-toothed palm civets spend very little time on the ground. A less commonly used method, spotlighting, has had more success. If scientists only relied on camera traps, they would have a very different picture of population of these civets. For example, in Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand, there were fourteen sightings of small-toothed palm civets in forty-three hours of spotlighting. In the same area, none of these civets were recorded over three years camera-trapping.

The difficulty of monitoring these civets means that there are still many unknowns about their behavior. Because they are nocturnal, there has been no documentation of their mating habits in the wild. There is also uncertainty about how they communicate and whether they are social or solitary animals.

While being arboreal and nocturnal hinders monitoring these civets, it also makes it more difficult to hunt them. Though threatened by deforestation, they have characteristics that will likely lessen the impact. Small-toothed palm civets can live at a variety of altitudes, and the bulk of deforestation happens at lower altitudes. They also have a wide geographic range, suggesting they might be more resilient to local changes to their habitat.

  1. Citizen science involves the general public in collecting data for scientific research. Some citizen science programs are designed to help scientists help monitor wildlife by reporting sightings or traces of animals. What are some possible advantages to this approach? What are some possible disadvantages?

    • Answer

      One advantage is that with more people collecting data, scientists can have a larger data set to work with. Another advantage is that citizen science data collection is usually nonintrusive, meaning there is no tranquilizing, collaring, or tagging wild animals. One possible disadvantage is that the people participating may have little training, so their observations may be incorrect. However, a large volume of contributors can make this less of an issue.

  2. Spotlighting has been an effective way to monitor small-toothed palm civets. What are some other methods of monitoring wild animals?

    • Answer

      Some monitoring methods include camera traps, trapping, tagging, GPS collars, and observing tracks, scat, and other markings.

  3. Why is it important to monitor animals even if they aren’t endangered?

    • Answer

      Monitoring animals can help scientists notice a population decline before it becomes a serious problem. Data from monitoring can also help scientists understand more about the animal and its behavior.

Noun

the distance above sea level.

arboreal
Adjective

having to do with trees.

camera trap
Noun

remote-activated camera that relies on changes in light or motion to automatically take a photo.

Noun

destruction or removal of forests and their undergrowth.

geographic range
Noun

distance at which a specific light (such as that from a lighthouse) is visible to the naked eye.

monitor
Verb

to observe and record behavior or data.

nocturnal
Adjective

active at night.

social animal
Noun

organism that interacts regularly with other members of its species.

solitary
Adjective

alone or preferring to be alone.

spotlighting
Noun

survey method performed a night using a high-powered spotlight to locate animals of interest.