Update: Dr Philippe Gaubert, a researcher at Institut de Recherche pour le Développement in France who has studied viverrids extensively, confirms that this pale African civet looks very much like an albino. He told us he's never come across either an albino or leucistic individual of the species before, though melanistic (black-furred) or "half-melanistic" animals are fairly common in some areas.

Get a load of this ghostly beast that paid a visit to a waterhole at Shenton Safaris' Mwamba Bush Camp in Zambia:

Image: Shenton Safaris (used with permission)

Were-mongoose? Phantom cat? Try a highly unusual colour variant of the African civet, a mid-sized nocturnal omnivore widespread south of the Sahara.

The African civet – a member of the viverrid family, which besides other civets includes genets, linsangs, and the binturong – can hold its own in the patterned-pelage department with any other carnivore. Its stocky, pear-shaped body comes streaked and blotched with black stripes and spots, and its face somewhat resembles a raccoon’s (as do its habits): black eye mask, snowy muzzle.

This Mwamba civet shows none of that high-contrast costume: It wears a pale coat with no obvious hint of a pattern, no apparent shadow of a dark mark. As Shenton Safaris notes in a report posted to African Geographic, that uniform light colour, plus the pink nose and lips, does suggest this civet might be a true albino, lacking the dark pigment melanin, rather than a leucistic individual with a partial reduction in all-around pigmentation. (Albino animals also typically have red or light-blue peepers, but it's hard to gauge with this civet due to eyeshine.)

Image: Shenton Safaris (used with permission)
Image: Shenton Safaris (used with permission)
A regular African civet. Image: Shenton Safaris (used with permission)

“We have seen many albino yellow baboons in South Luangwa National Park in Zambia,” Shenton Safaris wrote in its post, “but this civet is a first for us!”

We’ve reached out to some folks in the know about any precedent for albino or leucistic African civets, and will update as we can. An apparently albino common palm civet has been described from India, while white (and black) forms of the typically spotted common genet apparently exist in its introduced range on the Iberian Peninsula, though neither have been recorded in the species’s native Africa.

Whatever the exact colour morph we’re dealing with here, we can thank the folks at Shenton Safaris for clueing us into a perfect Halloween beastie from the African bush: ghost civet! Happy haunting.


Header Image: Shenton Safaris