Large Spotted Genet

A large spotted genet encountered on a night safari in South Africa.

The large spotted genet is endemic to South Africa and is often encountered during evening safari.

Name:
Large Spotted Genet
Scientific Name:
Genetta tigrina
Weight
1.6-2.1kg (M) 1.36-1.87kg (f)
Length:
460-580cm (M) 427-560cm (F)
Mating Season:
April, May

Description

Genets are some of the less known cat relatives found in Africa. They have a very slender build and long tails which enables them to swiftly and agilely move between trees and through thickets. This species of genet is characterized and distinguished from other genet species by its size. Its grey coat and spots are very similar to that of other genets, but its size sets it apart more distinctly. The size of adult large spotted genets range from a mere 1.6 to 2.1kg (3.5 to 4.6lb) in males, and 1.36 to 1.87kg (3 to 4.12 lb) in and amongst females.

Distribution

The Large Spotted Genet is occurs in most areas of Africa not dominated by the sandy dunes and rocky landscapes the Sahara has to offer. Ethiopian highlands are their northernmost post and the Cape their southernmost. In between they are found in the Eastern Cape and North from there in South Africa, along with parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique into Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, the DRC, Angola and coastal Western Africa where they can be found throughout the vast majority of land within the countries named. Exclusions in their range include both the Kalahari and Namib Deserts, the Karoo semi-desert in South Africa and finally most of Somalia bordering the coast.

Status

Large Spotted Genets, like many other species protected by the vast boundaries of the Kruger National Park, are considered common and labeled accordingly as least concern. The endless supply of insects and fruits to forage or small mammals to hunt make them an easy fit in many habitats across many countries of Africa, and this is one of the greatest factors in their favor in the epic race for survival in Africa. Their population trend seems to show that their populations are stable going into the future.

Habitat

Large Spotted Genets, like their small spotted relatives are found in drier and less dense areas when compared to other genet species. In South Africa they are found in the fynbos areas of the Western Cape and also among other plain game near grasslands or woodlands preferring a quieter environment as found on the edge of these areas. Here they hunt and forage for food which comes in many different shapes and forms. Smaller mammals and reptiles including rodents and small primates or alternatively lizards make the list more often than not, while insects, scorpions and spiders are dug out from beneath the ground or taken from the bottom of tree stumps and rocks.

Social Organization

Males and females live separate in most cases, with the most sophisticated groups formed by these genets and other species for that matter are groups in which females and offspring can be found. These groups however only stay together in cycles of 6 months or so before the next offspring arrive. For this reason genets are considered solitary animals, with some home ranges of opposite sexes overlapping. These home ranges are often defended by males, but they aren’t regarded as territorial animals. The size of home ranges are usually as large as 5 square kilometers in some parts but can be vary drastically and be nearly half that.

Social Behavior

Genets are another front runner in the field of scent marking as a form of communication. They can convey or communicate complexly by leaving urine, feces or scent gland secretions for other individuals to find and decode. They can determine a great number of things in this way, such as whether the individual in question is part of their family unit or not, and possibly their sex as well. They regularly and repeatedly mark areas in this way, sometimes around 60 times in a single day by females and the same among males. Urination was the main mode of giving off scent among males choosing it over other methods 90% of the time, while females only used it a mere 20% in studies done.

Reproduction

Courting male genets often follow females around once a female’s sexual status is brought under his attention. She might reject or ignore him in the beginning, and may even flee or try and get away, but will come around soon enough and the pair will mate. After conceiving a female will carry their unborn young for 70 to 77 days, or about 2 ½ months before releasing them into the world. They are typically 2 to 3 little kittens which together make up an average sized litter. Once females mature physically and sexually at the age of around 2 years, they are able to produce young consistently, usually twice in one calendar year, although all her kittens might not survive to fulfill the same activities she did in her life cycle.

Anti-Predator Behavior

Genets, much like mongooses, are very startled by attacks at first. Genets are known to release anal sac secretions when threatened which may repel their attackers and give them time to escape. Otherwise they do respond defensively by arching or rounding their back and lifting their hair to make them seem bigger. They also produce a variety of vocal calls, grunts and growls to both inform others and try to intimidate or drive away their opponents. When all else fails they can flee into surrounding cover or into trees, using their low centre of gravity and agility to outrun whomever they face.

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