Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Owston's banded civet (Chris Brack)

To promote my soon-to-be-published Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals - the fully-revised, thoroughly-updated, and greatly-expanded third incarnation of what began as The Lost Ark in 1993, and then became The New Zoo in 2002 - during the next few weeks I shall be excerpting from this latest book of mine as a series of ShukerNature exclusives some of the remarkable animals whose discoveries or rediscoveries are celebrating notable anniversaries in 2011. Here's one of them.


Owston's banded civet Chrotogale owstoni is an obscure Asian species, measuring up to 3.5 ft in total length. Named after Alan Owston, whose native collector procured its type specimen on 16 September 1911 at Yen-bay, on Tonkin's Song-koi River in southern China, it was officially described in 1912 by Oldfield Thomas, who designated it as the sole member of a new genus. The visually arresting pattern created by contrasting light and dark, transverse bands on its body and the basal portion of its tail closely resembles that of the banded palm civet Hemigalus derbianus, but the latter species lacks the dark spots visible on the neck, shoulders, flanks, and thighs of Chrotogale.

Owston's banded civet depicted upon a Vietnamese postage stamp from 1966

Furthermore, anatomical comparisons uncovered distinct differences in cranial structure and dentition between the two species, differences sufficiently marked to warrant these civets' respective residence in separate genera. Most remarkable of these contrasts were the very slender muzzle of Chrotogale, and its incongruous incisors - these latter teeth are surprisingly broad and close-set, and arranged almost in a semi-circle, a condition more comparable to that of certain insectivorous marsupials than to any species of viverrid.

Owston's banded civet depicted upon a set of Vietnamese postage stamps from 2005

Whether Chrotogale too is predominantly insectivorous, however, remains uncertain, as even today it is still a very mysterious animal, known from less than two dozen preserved specimens originating variously from northern Vietnam, Laos, and from Tonkin and Yunnan in China. A live individual was captured in Vietnam in 1991, followed by others more recently. These latter include (in 1999) three males and seven females at Hanoi Zoo, six males and four females at Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) Zoo, four of each sex at Pittsboro Zoo in North Carolina, and one female at Frankfurt Zoo. More recently, an international conservation and breeding programme for them was established in co-operation with Vietnam’s Cuc Phuong National Park working with various zoos including Newquay Zoo.

My scraperboard illustration of Owston's banded civet (Dr Karl Shuker)

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful animal, nice to know they still exist