Colours of Wildlife: Large-spotted Genet

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Large-spotted Genet

Willem is a wildlife artist based in South Africa. He says "My aim is simply to express the beauty and wonder that is in Nature, and to heighten people's appreciation of plants, animals and the wilderness. Not everything I paint is African! Though I've never been there, I'm also fascinated by Asia and I've done paintings of Asian rhinos and birds as well. I may in future do some of European, Australian and American species too. I'm fascinated by wild things from all over the world! I mainly paint in watercolours. . . but actually many media including 'digital' paintings with the computer!"

Large-Spotted Genet by Willem

This is another illustration I made for the small carnivore project for the University of Venda. This is a Blotched Genet, Genetta maculata (which means genet with spots or blotches), sometimes also called a large-spotted genet. This may actually not be a species at all, but rather a form of the Botched Genet, Genetta tigrina. There is a huge variety of forms of these genets, and it is difficult to decide where to draw the lines between one species and another. In South Africa, at least, the situation is more clear-cut. The only confusable genet over here is the Small-spotted Genet, which is generally smaller, greyer, with small but distinct spots, an erectable mane of long hairs on its back, and a usually white-tipped tail. The large-spotted genet has a rather rusty background colour, with spots often tinged reddish brown. The spots also often join together into large, irregularly shaped blotches, or stripes, especially on the shoulders, neck and back. The dark and white markings on the face don't contrast as much as in the small-spotted genet. Body hairs are dense and somewhat shorter than those of the small-spotted genet, and there isn't an erectable mane on the back. The tail has very broad black or reddish-brown rings, and the tip is black. The large-spotted genet weighs between 1.2 and 3.1 kg/2.6 and 6.8 lbs. Built long and low, it reaches a total length of 1.1 m/44".

In South Africa, the large-spotted genet generally inhabits moister, lusher areas than those frequented by the small-spotted, though there is overlap. It occurs in the fynbos region of the Western and Eastern Cape, in the Cape forests, and in savannahs and forests from the Eastern Cape northwards into Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It is absent from the Karoo semi-desert, from the open grasslands of the Orange Free State, and from the drier savannahs. Outside of South Africa its distribution becomes confused because of difficulty separating it from very similar genet species (or sub-species as the case may be) but the entire complex of blotched genets occur over the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa apart from the driest desert regions.

Part of the small carnivore project is to teach communities to be less prejudiced against genets and other carnivores. The large-spotted genet in particular is thought to be a poultry killer. While it will in fact catch chicks if it can, it is actually more partial to rodents. It is fairly easy to protect chickens against these carnivores, and by catching so many mice and rats, they actually do farmers and folks with maize and vegetable gardens a favour. These genets also eat insects like termites, grasshoppers and beetles, other invertebrates like scorpions and centipedes, a few reptiles and amphibians, and a selection of wild fruits. Some have been recorded catching and eating aquatic critters like crabs and fish, but this is not at all usual.

The hunting method of this genet is by stalking and pouncing. It can actually jump very well, in spite of its rather short legs, and have been seen clearing distances of 3 m/10 ft between trees. It hunts at night, using its excellent senses of smell and vision to find its prey. Once a prey animal is caught, it is killed by repeated bites. In the spring and summer, insects are more abundant, and then the genets eat more of them, turning to rodents in the autumn and winter when the bug supplies run out.

We don't know a great deal about the reproduction of these genets. Females give birth to two to five kittens in the warm, rainy spring and summer, in a sheltered lair such as a hollow in a tree or between rocks, or sometimes even in man-made buildings and structures. They keep to their safe lair as their mom goes hunting. She returns to suckle them. They only leave the lair when they're strong enough to roam and hunt on their own, which is when they're about six months old.

In spite of persecution, large-spotted genets are not considered endangered. They are very alert and hide themselves well during the daytime. They have no problems adapting to human-altered habitats, often making use of things like buildings or haystacks for shelter. Their numbers should be watched mainly because of their great ecological importance, being very important for keeping the numbers of rodents and other small critters in check, in a variety of habitats.

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