Urban Civets of Kuala Lumpur

I derive great pleasure from encountering wildlife in the wilds, but also enjoy observing wild creatures in urban settings, such as along the bayou that wanders through Houston, Texas.

I was delighted to find that in one of the world's most spectacular urban environments, the surroundings of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, there is some fascinating wildlife to be observed with a little patience and awareness. I had seen tree shrews, squirrels and bats on morning walks in the park, but first came across the civets ("toddy cats") that live there on evening runs on the track that circles the park. From about 9:30 pm onwards as people leave the central part of the park, the civets make a start on their night time activities, sometimes alone, sometimes with a youngster or two. This is the Asian palm civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus), nocturnal omnivore, active both on the ground and in the trees.

Petronas twin towers at night. The KLCC park in front of the towers was designed by Brazilian architect Roberto Burle Marx, incorporating 1900 native plants, including 66 species of palms. It is circled by a running track and is a favourite recreation area for the city.

After taking the photo of the towers above I looked down and saw a pair of Asian palm civets running along the ground towards a fine old fig tree. I lost sight of one of the them, but the one shown here rapidly climbed the trunk and then settled down on the first major branch. I stepped forward quietly and slowly, taking photographs as I went. 

I'm pleased with this image given that light levels were very low. I used a huge 52,100 ISO setting, which still left me needing to hold the camera very firmly at a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second.

The bandit mask on this palm civet makes it strongly reminiscent of the raccoons I used to enjoy seeing in Houston. They are said to occupy the very same ecological niche, but the raccoons belong to the dog-like (Caniformia) carnivores whereas the civets belong to the cat-like (Feliformia) carnivores. 

I feel like I'm starting to get to know them quite well as I watch them foraging, scratching, yawning and relaxing.


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