Category Archives: genets

Digging Up The Past

Well well well, we have had a very interesting day…

 Some of you may remember a couple of days last year (one in January and one around November time), when our forest teams stumbled across sad, yet interesting finds.  In January we found a dead infant colobus on the ground, one that could not have been more than a couple of days old.  It still had the remains of the umbilical cord on its stomach.  Then later on in the year, in a very similar place we happened upon a dead baby genet.  This tiny, beautiful creature had a large open wound in its chest, and could not have died more than a few hours previously. 

The infant colobus - as we found it

The infant colobus - as we found it

Both occurrences were sad for all those present.  The colobus in Shimoni forest are threatened on all fronts by encroachment and deforestation, and to see one so young die (probably due to something as simple as falling from its mother) is very sad.  And although genets are not a threatened species, they are rare in Shimoni forest (and are particularly stunning animals).

 Those two finds had one thing in common.  We dug a hole for each of the recently deceased, and buried them!  I would be lying if I said there was no sentimentality involved, but the scientists in us had a higher motive.  We planned on going back there and uncovering the skeletons, allowing us a rare look at the anatomy of both animals.  You would struggle to get such a close look at an infant colobus and baby genet, and then to have a good old look at their skeletons!

Excavating the genet site

Excavating the genet site

Matt Holt using a paintbrush to clean one of the tiny bones

Matt Holt using a paintbrush to clean one of the tiny bones

 

 So today was the day that we headed back out there, to the two spots that we have walked past almost daily, but this time with the intention of revisiting our old friends.  We got to the colobus grave first, put our bags down and started digging, very carefully with out hands.  I was surprised how easily we found it (the spot was marked with a pile of coral), but within minutes we were starting to get tiny little bones in the handfuls of dirt.  We dug very carefully, getting handfuls of soil and slowly sifting through until we came across no more.  I knew the bones were going to be small, but I think we were all surprised quite how miniscule they actually were.  By the end, we reckoned we had the majority of bones. 

A section of the genet's jaw is discovered

A section of the genet's jaw is discovered

 We then moved onto the second site, where we were to look for the genet.  Again we found the pile of coral easily, and with slightly more confidence we began to dig.  This hole was slightly deeper so it took a little bit longer to get to the bones, but we found them.  Employing the same technique, we started to gather all the bones we could find.  Much to our disappointment however, we only managed to find what we would guess to be approximately a third of the bones.  We dug all around, and as deep as we could go but didn’t manage to find all of them.  Whether they had been scavenged, had decomposed quickly, or had just evaded the sharp eyes of the would-be archaeologists, we will never know.  We did find many of the main bones though, and got very excited when we discovered most of the upper and lower jaw with little teeth still attached!

Part of the genet's lower jaw

Part of the genet's lower jaw

 Dirty, sweaty and with a sense of achievement, we headed back to base to try and put some order to what we had found.  We are very pleased to have managed to put together the entire colobus skull, and the majority of the genet skull!  We are going to purchase some super glue and rebuild them permanently, as well as back all the other bones onto cardboard so that people can have a closer look at these amazing little skeletons for a long time yet.

Some of the genet's teeth (right) and claws (left).  The matchstick emphasises the size

Some of the genet's teeth (right) and claws (left). The matchstick emphasises the size

 For the colobus, we think we have found almost all of the ribs, the skull, the major bones of the arms and legs, sections of the fingers, shoulder joints and several vertebrae.  For the genet, we have got most of the skull, the whole jaw (we think), some of the ribs, quite a few vertebrae (we assume the smaller ones are from the tail), the coccyx, the shoulder bones and some of the leg bones.  I must point out however that none of us are experts in the field of animal anatomy or skeletal structure, and unfortunately none of our reference material here can give us much information.  So I apologise in advance if our educated guesses are not entirely accurate, we are going to do some research and see what we can find.  If anyone out there does know a bit about it, please do let us know!

All of the colobus bones that were recovered

All of the colobus bones that were recovered

 I hope you enjoy the photos!

 Matt

Dead Baby Genet Found In Shimoni Forest

Yesterday our forest team went out in the late afternoon to see if we could get some colobus behaviour done, as we are lacking data for that time of the day.  We didn’t manage to get a sighting good enough, but on our way back we got a sighting we certainly did not expect – a dead baby genet!

It was lying directly on our north/south spine, so there was no way we could have missed it.  Having only ever seen one genet in the forest before (during a night walk), I was truly excited, albeit rather sad.  I immediately guessed it was a young one purely based on its size, and it had a relatively large hole in its upper body. 

genet1.jpg 

 This photo shows the broad-based, rounded ears

It was getting late and the light was fading, so we covered it in a temporary tomb of coral blocks, to protect it from scavengers until the next day when we could come back and inspect it in more detail.  So this morning we went back to the same spot, armed with a camera, a measuring tape and a spring balance.

genet3.jpg 

 The genet being weighed using a spring balance
 
Its measurements were as follows:

• Head-body (from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail): 24 cm
• Foreleg: 6 cm
• Hind leg: 10 cm
• Tail: 20 cm
• Weight: 175 g

From the photographs we got, it is clear that it is either a common genet (Genetta genetta) or a blotched genet (Genetta tigrina).  Personally I’m leaning towards the blotched genet, for the following reasons;

Common genets have rather coarse fur whereas bloched genets have much softer fur.  I touched the fur, and it was definitely soft!
Common genets have a short crest of longer fur along the spine, and the blotched genet does not.  We did not see a spine of longer fur on our genet. 
The common genet has small, numerous and linear spots on a sandy background.  Although our genet did have small numerous spots, they do not appear as tidy or linear as the picture in the book suggests (Kingdon, 1997).
The blotched genet has broad-based, slightly rounded ears in comparison with the more pointed ears of the common genet. 
The common genet has a small patch of pale or white fur at the tip of the tail, when the blotched genet does not.  Ours appeared to have a black tip of the tail. 
Furthermore, the coat of the blotched genet can be extremely variable with regards to colour and pattern, and different coloured morphs exist in the same area.  This had led to the naming of many subspecies. 

genet-2.jpg

This shows the extent of the wound

All of this said, I think it is very difficult to say for sure, purely because of the age of the animal.  It is obviously very young, as its body and tail length are approximately half the minimum length of an adult of both the common and blotched genets, and its weight is approximately one seventh of the minimum weight of an adult of either species.  So many of the key features for successful identification may have not have developed yet. 

Anyway, it was incredibly interesting to see one of these shy, nocturnal animals so close.  They are truly beautiful little creatures, that are found in the Viverridae family that includes all genets and civets.

genet41.jpg 

If there are any genet experts out there who have any thoughts, please do let us know!