When a family in Delhi’s East Patel Nagar was getting their AC ducts cleaned on Tuesday, little did they expect an encounter with the wild. A Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) had taken shelter in the duct, which was then rescued by wildlife officials and later freed in the Asola Wildlife Sanctuary.
The big-sized cat is commonly also known as ‘toddy cat’, ‘bijjoo’ and ‘Kasturi billi’. “A two-member team was promptly dispatched to the location to carry out the rescue operation. Upon arrival, the Wildlife SOS rescue team realised it was an Asian Palm Civet. Locals said that the animal was roaming in the area for the past couple of days,” said a member of Wildlife SOS, a rescue and conservation organisation.
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The cat is a small member of the family Viverridae native to South and Southeast Asia. They are an omnivorous species that feed on fruits, berries, coffee beans, insects and small mammals and are protected under Schedule II of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
This is hardly an isolated occurrence as there have been several instances of Neelgais, leopards and other civets straying into urban areas recently. According to wildlife experts, while spotting a Common Palm Civet is not rare since it lives close to human habitation, the repeated occurrences of wild animals straying into urban areas is largely because of the loss of their natural habitat.
In July 2014, a civet was rescued after it was seen running amok in the Parliament complex and later in September that year, another civet in Khan Market sent shopkeepers and customers in a tizzy for a few hours. Last year, there were reports of a baby civet being rescued again from AC ducts in a house in the Vasant Kunj area.
Other incidents include a leopard that was spotted on the roof of a one -storey house in Faridabad last month. Scared locals had ended up killing the animal. Earlier in October this year, a Neelgai was found loitering in a park in Alaknanda in south Delhi.
Prof Surya Prakash, School of Life Sciences, JNU, said, “It is not unusual to spot a civet in urban areas, as they live close to human habitation. They breed during the winter and the animal was probably seeking shelter in the duct.” He added that there are two types of civets – the Common Palm Civet is spotted commonly and the Small Indian Civet is an endangered species. The latter is endangered mainly because it’s a complete forest animal and the animal’s natural habitat is being destroyed very rapidly. Also, an increased population of stray dogs is another reason for the decline in the numbers of Small Indian Civets, as these are preyed upon by the dogs.
According to Geeta Seshamani, co-founder, Wildlife SOS, “Even though the Palm Civet is a shy animal, this is the second civet rescue we have done in the past 10 days. Habitat encroachment and deforestation is happening at a startling pace and this is beginning to redefine the boundaries between forest and urban areas. Consequently, the incidents of wild animals straying into urban areas are increasing. This issue needs to be addressed urgently and in a planned way. People need to be made aware of and sensitised about animals straying into urban areas.