Animal Conservation

Clever and nocturnal ninja that lashes out in the houses of the city | Print edition

By Kasun Warakapitiya

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Some inhabitants of the city and the suburbs are increasingly disturbed by the nocturnal activities of palm civets, which take refuge in their homes.

The palm civet is a small mammal with a long, hairy tail and a pointed muzzle.

There are times when residents seek help from local authorities, pest control companies, zoos, and the Department of Wildlife Conservation, but run into roadblocks over who is responsible for controlling the wild creature.

The common palm civet, or Paradoxurus hermaphroditus, known locally as Uguduwa or Kalawadda, is a medium-sized nocturnal mammal that lives in rock crevices and tree hollows.

It is one of the two common species in Sri Lanka.

It is also found in the ceilings, attics of dwellings in urban areas. It is also an omnivore that feeds on fruits and small mammals, insects and birds. His eating habits helped him adjust to urban life.

It was also a civet infected with the virus that had been eaten by a Chinese man in Guangzhou city, southern Guangdong province, which was the source of the deadly SARS virus in 2002-2003, which spread rapidly, killing the man.

Residents of Colombo, Dehiwala, Mount Lavinia and the suburbs know the nuisance and damage caused by palm civets. They complain that civets defecate, urinate in attics and litter their homes.

Mount Lavinia resident Kumudu Kumari Diddeniya said civets were one of the reasons for the decision to sell their ancestral home on Kawdana Road in Dehiwala.

“We were concerned that the ceiling would fall on our heads as the cackling civets fell and run over them.” she said.

Her daughter’s electric organ had been destroyed because a civet had urinated on it while the organ was plugged in.

Ms Diddeniya said that often at night, they hear the squealing and squealing of mice being killed by civets living on the ceiling.

An employee of a pest control company claims civets are attracted to mice, garbage, and dark, dry attics.

Some say they even captured litters of civets from the ceilings. Civets breed in urban areas when conditions are favorable.

An employee of a pest control company, WK Thushara Hemantha, 39, said that in recent times, infestations of mice and rats have increased in Colombo.

He explained that palm civets have been drawn to granaries because they feed on mice and inhabit dark places.

“We normally capture at least one civet in a trap cage. We bait the trap with fruit or meat, ”he said.

During this time, the Sunday Times Also learned that some of the pest control companies in Colombo are asking people to contact the city council or the wildlife department to remove the animals as they don’t know how to safely capture the animals. Some companies added that they lacked equipment to deal with larger, nuisance animals.

Some employees of pest control companies poison civets when they are unable to capture the animals.

City council officials said they did not have the authority to remove the civets.

Colombo City Council Chief Veterinarian Dr M Ijas said the Sunday Times that people are encouraged to contact the Department of Wildlife Conservation when residents call for help.

“We frequently receive complaints and requests to remove palm civets from homes; we don’t have the authority, the expertise and the equipment to do it. DWC has the power to manipulate wild animals, ”he said.

Dr Ijas also said civets are also carriers of rabies and people should avoid being bitten by them as well.

Meanwhile, the executive director of the National Zoological Gardens, Shermila Rajapaksha, said the zoo is also receiving complaints and requests for removal of these creatures.

“We encourage people to contact the
DWC as they are the responsible party, ”she said.

The head of the Wildlife Department said the Sunday Times that although he handles wild animals, the creatures would only be wiped out if lives were in danger or people were harassed.

DWC chief executive Chandana Suriyabandara said pest control companies were prohibited from removing or harming civets.

He said wildlife officers would only remove an animal if it caused harm to people or caused harassment.

Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) environmental activist Sajeewa Chamikara said habitat destruction has prompted animals to seek refuge in human settlements.

“When animals do not have a natural habitat, they are forced to use the appropriate conditions available in urban areas, which is why palm civets take refuge in granaries,” he said.

Cut off access to ceilings
Department of Wildlife Conservation Director General Chandana Suriyabandara told the Sunday Times that houses should be designed to block access to ceilings and attics so that animals such as civets do not inhabit them.

It is also helpful to prune or cut down trees that allow civets to reach rooftops. Steps should also be taken to eradicate mice and properly dispose of waste so that civets are not drawn to homes in search of prayers and food.

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