1.1. The African Civet (Civettictis civetta) and its Economic Importance

The African civet (Civettictis civetta) is a sturdily built, relatively long-legged, low-slung animal that is similar in appearance to a dog, cat and genet (Kingdon 1997, R-Zu-2-U 2000).  Each foot has five, non-retractile claws (Estes 1991), its hind legs are taller and more powerful than the forelegs (Pugh 1998) and its tail is long, bushy and banded.  The coat colouring differs regionally but is generally of a dark yellow/grey (Estes 1991) hue.  Black lines are visible on its face and its lips are white.  The African civet is the largest of 66 species that belong to the Viverridae family (Rood 2000, Kingdon 1997) and is found only in sub-Saharan Africa, specifically tropical rainforests and dry savannahs where it inhabits thickets or burrows.  Unlike other members of the family the African civet is a tree climber.  All members of the family are to be found only in the Old World (Rood 2000).

The African civet can weigh as much as 15kg and is approximately 146cm in length.  Its diet comprises mainly fruits, berries, reptiles, rodents, eggs and invertebrates.  Though naturally a nocturnal animal, it is known to be active during the day in captive conditions, this is especially so if the animal has been raised in captivity (R-Zu-2-U 2000). It has a habit of following regular paths in its home range and uses dung middens, civetrines (civet latrines) and musk to mark its territory and announce its presence both to mates and adversaries.

One characteristic that has made this animal economically important is its tendency to secrete a grease-like substance, a musk, from glands located below the tail (Kingdon 1977).  By keeping African civets in captivity it is possible to extract the musk which is then refined into a compound, civetone, and used as a fixing agent in the perfume industry.  A different species of civet, Viverricula indica, also produces civet musk and is found in China (De-Sheng1986) and India (Mohan 1994).

Civet musk and its refined compound, civetone, was first identified in the 1920s (Anonis 1997).  The chemical composition of civet musk was identified by Waldbaum and even though in the late 1940s civet musk was produced artificially, high quality perfume producers still prefer the use of civetone (Anonis 1997).  On secretion, civet musk is usually light yellow in colour and has a consistency of thick grease.  With age civet musk hardens and becomes darker (Anonis 1997).  Civet musk secretions are often mixed with other substances (potatoes, butter, bananas, beans, mango, flour and honey; Anonis 1997) to increase quantity.

Civet musk is an important export commodity.  Ethiopia produces 90% of the world’s civet musk (Jemal 1999).  Niger and Senegal export small quantities of civet musk (Hillman 1992).  Past exporters include Ghana and Zanzibar.

1.2. Historical Background of Civet Musk Production and Trade

The Queen of Sheba (1013-982 BC) allegedly presented civet musk as a gift to King Solomon.  In Ethiopia’s early history, civet musk was expensive, used as currency (Pankhurst 1961) and traded with Egypt, Zanzibar and India.  Civet musk was valued above ivory, gold or myrrh.  Traditionally it was used as a medicine for various ailments and taken in tea and coffee (Jemal 1999).

Poncet, the French traveller who arrived in Gondar, the former Ethiopian capital, in the 17th Century noted that Enfranz was an important town for civet farming or civiculture.  Civets were kept in captivity here and their secretions collected weekly.  Before his arrival at Gondar, Poncet had witnessed civet musk being traded alongside ivory, tamarind and gold.

Chronicles of Napoleon Bonaparte’s 18th Century expedition to Egypt as well as accounts of other expeditions of that period refer to the civet musk trade (Pugh 1998).  In 1872 Anatolia Cheche visited the area now known as Illubabor in Ethiopia and noted that the King of Jimma, Aba Jifar Abagambo, had set aside an area in his palace for civiculture (EWCO 1997).

According to Pankhurst (1968) civet musk was exported directly from Gondar.  It was a major Ethiopian export in the 1800s and in 1840 accounted for 13% of the export trade that year (Woodford 1990).  Today the districts of Sidamo, Shoa, Wollega, Keffa, and Illubabora tha produce the highest yields of civet musk (EWCO 1992).

According to Mesfin (1995) traders introduced civiculture to south and southwestern Ethiopia from northern Ethiopia, specifically to Limu district in the Keffa Region.  From here civiculture spread to neighbouring areas including Enarya, Jimma, and Wollega (Pankhurst 1961, 1968).

Today civiculture has a complex social dimension (Pankhurst 1961, 1968).  In Ethiopia, only Muslim communities are practice civiculture.  According to oral history the legendary leader Nessiru Allah, who lived in Limu, Keffa, suffered from an eye affliction that was cured by an application of civet musk. Once cured, Nessiru Allah ordered followers of Islam to farm African civets (Mesfin 1995).

Perhaps the most interesting fact about the African civet musk trade is that it has persisted for so long and its husbandry practices have undergone little change (Fikadu et al. 1997).

1.3. Present Situation of Civet Musk Trade in Ethiopia

Table 1: Total revenue (in US$) from civiculture in Africa 1985 to 1997 (Jemal 1999).

Year

Qty. of Civet (kg)

Total Revenue (US$)

1985

1837

826,650

1986

1841

828,450

1987

1858

836,100

1988

1413

638,850

1989

1023

460,350

1990

1732

779,400

1991

343

154,350

1992

359

161,550

1993

536

241,200

1994

878

395,100

1995

1005

452,250

1996

776

349,200

1997

336

151,200

1998

1662

749,900

1999

1131

508,950

The volume of civet musk secreted is related to the size of the animal.  Hillman (1992) reports that a large male can produce up to 6.4 grams of civet musk every 5 days – approximately 32 grams per animal per month.  A smaller male can produce 3.4 grams every 5 days.  A census of civiculture undertaken by the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation in 1997 (Fikadu et al. 1997) found 174 farms housing 2,617 African civets.  A similar census carried out by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) a year later found 203 farms housing 3,037 animals (Pugh 1998).  Unfortunately the census also uncovered widespread animal cruelty and a lack of knowledge on the numbers of African civets living in the wild (Pugh 1998).

The WSPA report was taken up by the Ethiopian Government and several subsequent government reports, especially those of the EWCO, confirmed the existence of animal cruelty and recommended actions to improve the situation (Teshome 1987, Hillman 1987a, Hillman 1987b, Hillman 1992, Tesfaye 1995, Fikadu et al. 1997, Olani 1999).  However, the civet musk industry has been slow to implement these recommendations.  Girma (1995) relates this inactivity to the lack of government support for the industry.

To identify the main problems affecting the industry it is useful to examine the situation in relation to the various stakeholders and the socio-economic environment in which it operates.

There are seven important stakeholders in the civet musk industry:

  1. Subsistence farmers.

  2. Middlemen.

  3. Exporters.

  4. National and regional governments.

  5. Animal rights groups.

  6. Quality control laboratories.

  7. Perfume manufacturers and consumers.

1.3.1. Subsistence Farmers

Farmers have preserved the traditions and cultures surrounding civiculture for hundreds of years.  Traditionally, a farm with 100 animals would require at least four farm workers in order to provide the animals with the appropriate level of care: Two women were needed to grind corn and prepare food while two men had the responsibility of collecting musk (Pankhurst 1968).  Civiculture is a family affair and is subjected to numerous traditional beliefs and superstitions.  One belief limits the number of individuals that have direct contact with the animals for fear of limiting the amount of civet musk secreted.  This belief has made it difficult for government officials and other authorised people to control and monitor civiculture.

Civiculture brings in revenue for the Ethiopian government and it is the responsibility of the government to support the farmers if changes in husbandry practices are called for.  However, altering practices is a challenge though this must be attempted if the level of animal welfare is to be raised.

1.3.2. Middlemen

Middlemen collect civet musk from farms before selling it in bulk to exporters in Addis Ababa.  Pugh (1998) notes that some farmers often deal directly with exporters.

1.3.3. Civet Musk Exporters

There are a total of five civet musk exporters in the country who are licensed by the government though the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation.  In addition to paying license fees, exporters are also required to pay fees for quality control and per kilogram of exported musk.  Licenses are renewed annually.

Exporters fix prices by observing musk colour noting its odour (Hillman 1992).  In some instances will exporters taste the musk (Pugh 1998) to determine if it has been mixed other substances (Hillman 1992).  Ethiopian exporters have an impact on the global price of civet musk. During their census WSPA found that exporters operate alone.  However, the opportunity to create a cartel and fix prices exists (Pugh 1998).

1.3.4. National and Regional Governments

Tax evasion and smuggling were commonplace in the African civet musk industry until the responsibility for regulating it was given to EWCO from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1972 (Hillman 1992). Civet farmers benefited as a result.  Export licenses, fixed export quotas, capture and ownership licenses and certificates for selling musk were introduced.  EWCO also visited many farms to register farmers and also evaluate farm conditions (Hillman 1992, Fikadu et al. 1997). Whilst EWCO has authority to evaluate and register farms, issue permits, licenses, certificates, etc, it often lacks capacity (staff, equipment, finances and government support).

Regional governments were charged with regulating civicultural activities in the early 1990s.  EWCO is now responsible only for issuing export licenses. While making regions responsible for activities undertaken in their regions is a positive step, it limits the number of improvements that can be made in the industry.  Regional governments require training and staff with appropriate technical knowledge.  Oromia Region has implemented a programme for developing trade (Ketema Debele pers. com) and the Agricultural Development Bureau of Oromia Region recently held a workshop in Nekemte that sought to define the conditions necessary to ensure healthy and productive captive African civets, a significant event in that it demonstrated that interest and initiative existed.  However, more needs to be done.

1.3.5. Animal Rights Groups

This group often protests against civiculture.  Arguments focus on the well being and safety of Africa civets during capture, transport and when in captivity.

Since 1973, the Society for Animal Rights (SAR) has been urging for a boycott of Chanel products that utilise civetone. A mission comprising members of University of Pennsylvania, the Bronx Zoo, Cornell University and Chanel visited a number of civet musk farms in Ethiopia after the protests began though recommended only that the cages in which the civets were be enlarged (Hillman 1992, Pugh 1998).

A report WSPA condemned the treatment of captive civets and recommended that the entire industry be shut down (Pugh 1998).  The report also suggested that efforts to transform the industry were unrealistic.

While it is true that captive civets become stressed and several die as a result of mishandling, the WSPA report is one-sided.  A report of this nature would have been constructive if the social, economic and political factors were taken into consideration as the civet industry is not based on economics alone but has a socio-cultural, traditional and historical dimension that cannot be dealt with superficially as was the case with this report.

1.3.6. Quality Control Laboratories

The Ethiopian Standardisation Authority and Pasteur Institute in Addis Ababa ascertain whether or not soon-to-exported musk has been properly graded.  Physical, microscopic and chemical tests are carried out to determine purity.  Unfortunately quality control procedures differ throughout the country (Tamiru 1995).

1.3.7. Perfume Manufactures and Consumers

Only 2% of the civet musk produced in Ethiopia is used nationally.  Ninety eight per cent is exported, the majority to France (85%) the remainder to Japan, North America, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong and the United Kingdom (Girma 1995).  Tamiru (1995) notes that Arabian countries import small quantities of civet musk for medicinal purposes and India imports small quantities for use in its tobacco industry.

One kilogram of musk can produce 3000 litres of good quality perfume (Pugh 1998).  With the demand for civet musk growing yearly Ethiopia should be increasing its output as it has the capacity to produce approximately 6000kg of civet musk annually.  Unfortunately only approximately 1000kg is produced and in most cases this musk is classified as impure.

Demands for a synthetic alternative have been growing in recent years.  The British Fragrance Association (BFA) and the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) are of the opinion that perfume industries are more likely to use artificial musk (Pugh 1998).

2. Sustainability of the Civet Trade in Ethiopia

Is the Ethiopian civet musk trade sustainable? Answering this question requires an examination of the entire industry.  An assessment that does not consider both biological/ecological or social/economic dimensions of a society will not depict a value which can be depended upon (Prescott-Allen 1996).  Sustainability can only be defined in a system where both the ecosystem and the human subsystem are co-existing.

It would be wrong to alienate the various processes involved in the production, export and use of civet musk.  The egg model described by Prescott-Allen (1996), is a good example where the human system and the ecosystem are seen as an order, where the good or bad of one affects the other. The Prescott-Allens (1996) describe that assessments need a systematic.  A systematic approach to assessing the sustainability of the use of wild species has been adopted by the IUCN SSC Sustainable Use Specialist Group.

Improving the wellbeing of people and ecosystems is a logical goal.  A goal for the Ethiopian civet industry would be:

  • To sustain the civet industry without depleting or negatively affecting the animals concerned and at the same time improving the livelihoods of the people involved in the production and export of the musk.

In defining the sense of direction, we have to determine to what extent the use system is impacting on human and ecosystem wellbeing: Is the impact positive or negative?  This can be done by looking at the ecosystem and the human dimension using different parameters and assessing the impact of the use on each issue (Prescott-Allen 1996).

Impact of the use on ecosystems can be assessed on whether it is maintaining or depleting the naturalness, quality, diversity and resource base of an area. The different parameters for assessing both ecosystem and human systems are the following:

  • Naturalness: Ecosystem naturalness or conversion (whether the ecosystem is natural, modified, cultivated or built).

  • Quality: Ecosystem quality or degradation (whether degradation or pollution is a problem).

  • Diversity: Diversity of ecological communities and wild species (whether this is being maintained or declining).

  • Resources: Resource conservation or depletion (whether the resources supplied by the ecosystem are being maintained or depleted).

Impact of use on the human system can be assessed using the following parameters:

  • Health: Longevity, good health, and existence of healthy living conditions (clean water, sanitation),

  • Wealth: Per capita income and supply of culturally important resources.

  • Knowledge: Knowledge system (education, monitoring and assessment capacities).

  • Institutions: Participation and empowerment (the distribution and effectiveness of decision making and the extent to which people have control over their lives).

The impacts for each system are scored separately and combined to give an overall assessment.  Impact can be either positive, neutral/negligible, negative or unknown.

On combining the impacts of the two systems, the interpretation is as follows.

  • Positive +  Positive or Neutral = probably sustainable.

  • Negative + Positive, Neutral or Negative = probably unsustainable.

  • Neutral /Negligible + Neutral/Negligible = makes little or no difference.

  • Unknown + Positive, Neutral or Unknown = inadequate information.

Table 2. Assessment of the impact of use on the ecosystem

Use

Ecosystem condition and trend

Impact of use on ecosystem

Summation of impact

Civiculture in Ethiopia.

Naturalness: Deforestation and bush clearing on the increase; reduction of natural area for cultivation and settlement.

Naturalness: Civiculture encourages the destruction of forests and woodlands. The effect of deforestation is not known.

UNKNOWN

Quality: Slow degradation of modified areas.

Quality: Probably significant as the result of the above

Diversity: Due to the above, expected to show a reduction.

Diversity: Unknown. Removal of species without regard to the rest of the ecosystem can have detrimental consequences.

Resources: Populations of civets in these areas could be decreasing in favour of a higher female to male ratio. Several facts about the wild population are unknown.

Resources: Selectively removes male civets for musk extraction by various trapping methods. Does not make use of a quota system nor does it base itself on agreed terms and regulations, including knowledge of total wild populations.

Table 3. Assessment of the Impact of Use on the Human System

Use

Human system condition and trend

Impact of use on human system

Summation of impact

Civiculture in Ethiopia.

Health: (national data)

Birth rate: 44.69 births/1000

Death rate: 21.25 deaths/1000

Infant mortality rate: 125.65/deaths/1000 live births

Total fertility rate: 6.88 children born/woman

Life expectancy at birth:

  • total population: 40.85

  • male: 39.76

  • female:41.97

(1998 est.)

Health: Probably negligible

NEGATIVE

Wealth: GDP per capita $120 (refers to national data)

Wealth: Civiculture supports a large economy but this aspect is not well understood

Knowledge: Literacy (definition: age 15 and above can read and write)

  • total population: 35.5%

  • male: 45.5%

  • female: 25.3%

(1995 est.)

Knowledge: Hundreds of years of accumulated and undocumented indigenous knowledge about keeping civets in captivity,  but this knowledge needs to be examined as widespread cruelty exists. Income from civet trade can have local impact as this may pay for education.

Institutions: Ownership and management, and export of resource is private, but national and regional governments have not been able to oversee and fully control trade.

Institutions: Privately owned farms and export companies. Farmers do not have enough capital to run farms. Government acts as regulator. Good set-up but government involvement of loose and superficial. Weak control structure has resulted in animal cruelty and stagnation. Annual income has fallen. Government needs to strengthen research, support local farmers and control and regulate trade more efficiently.

Source: US State Dept (1998)

The impact of civet trade on the ecosystem is unknown while it has a negative impact on the human system.  Combining the two impacts allows us to determine the sustainability of the use.

Table 4: Combined impact of Civiculture on Ecosystem and Human Systems

Source: US State Dept (1998)

The impact of civet trade on the ecosystem is unknown while it has a negative impact on the human system.  Combining the two impacts allows us to determine the sustainability of the use.

Table 4: Combined impact of Civiculture on Ecosystem and Human Systems

Impact on the human system

Impact on the ecosystem

Positive

Neutral/Negligible

Negative

Unknown

Positive

Good

Good

Bad

Bad

Neutral/Negligible

Good

Neutral

Bad

Unknown

Negative

Bad

Bad

Bad

Bad

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

Bad

Unknown

3. Future Prospects and Recommendations

The impact of use on both ecosystem and humans is not good and is probably unsustainable. A bad use should either be stopped or reformed. The Prescott-Allens (1996), however, believe that bad uses have some good to them and stopping them altogether may not be appropriate.  Reform can be an easier option because illicit trade will occur if a use that has existed for a long time is suddenly stopped. Attempts to ban the civet trade will be met with opposition.  The government is also too weak to enforce a ban. One reason for encouraging reform is that civiculture has its own traditions and social dimension and a ban would result in the loss of these. It provides income for farmers and supports the Ethiopian export industry.

Support and regulation for the trade is weak are generally weak.  But reform is still more appropriate as civiculture appears to have fulfilled two of the three most important elements in sustainability.

These are:

  1. Ownership: Farms are privately owned, though the farmer is still bound to market fluctuations or local social conditions.  Markets both inside and outside Ethiopia affect civicultural activities

  2. Management and Regulation: The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation provide export licences whilst regional governments monitor farms. Management is therefore shared.

Major competing activities must also be removed if sustainable use is to be achieved. Natural civetone must compete against the synthetic fixatives.  The use of synthetic fixatives has upset market trends, demand and supply and the local economy. This competing product as well as ancient husbandry practices work against efforts to improve the situation.

4. Recommendations

  1. The establishment of a model civet project is perhaps one of the strongest recommendations arising from various government and non-government sectors. Captive civets should be studied.  Traditional methods can be validated during these studies and appropriate husbandry practices identified. As an example, Mohan (1994) reports that if cages contain metal rods, 2 – 4cm in diameter, civets will rub their anal glands against them and musk will be deposited. Employment of this design is to be encouraged so as to alleviate undue harassment to captive animals during the process of musk extraction.

  1. Traditionally, once a civet dies, it is replaced with a civet from the wild. Efforts must be made to breed civets in captivity. Civets have been bred in captivity in Jersey (Mallinson 1969, Mallinson 1972) and Chinese scientists have successfully bred Viverricula indica in captivity (Hongfa and Helin 1994) from which musk is also extracted.  Asian countries have a long history of keeping civets and their methods should be integrated into Ethiopian practices.  Ethiopian civet farmers have attempted to breed civets in the past but with no success (Girma pers. com).  Civets that have been reared as cubs after being taken from the wild are friendly and allow their owners to remove musk from their glands (R-Zu-2-U 2000).

  1. Field studies of wild populations of civets must also be undertaken.  Research should provide information on their distribution, status, and numbers, breeding and behavioural patterns.

  1. Civet farmers usually complain that markets for civet are becoming smaller and smaller each year. Farmers should consider forming collectives.

  1. The Ethiopian government needs to build its capacity by training staff and allow all stakeholders to become involved in regulating the industry. Farmers must be trained to care for civets, veterinary service manuals should be provided, food and equipment should be provided where necessary to support farmers.

  1. The Ethiopian government must encourage private investment into the industry.

  1. Quality and export agents should be provided with the latest information on standards.

  1. Animal cruelty must be stopped. Support services must be put in place to minimise occurrences.

  1. Civet farmers must receive education about keeping civets. Model projects can encourage farmers to change their present trapping methods, cage dimensions, feeding, extraction methods and general animal care.

  1. Assessments are usually hampered by the amount of information available to them (Prescott-Allen 1996).  As an example, the conclusion of Unknown on the impacts of use on the ecosystem has been determined using available information. First-hand investigations were not undertaken. Research is very important.

  1. An integrated system of conservation should also be encouraged so that people have alternatives to farming.

4. Conclusion

A preliminary assessment shows that civiculture is not sustainable in Ethiopia.  Radical reform is necessary. The various interest groups and stakeholders must discuss and develop appropriate, modern management systems and frameworks.

5. Literature

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De-Sheng, Ding. 1986. Civet Cat in China. Perfumer and Flavourist. Vol 11, Oct/Nov 1986. Allured Publishing Corp. pp 97-104.

Estes, R. D. 1991. The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals. University  of California Press. California, USA. pp.289-292.

Fikadu Shiferaw, Getachew W/Michael and Tesfaye Hundessa. 1997. Field Report on Traditional Civet Holdings in Oromia Region. A report to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 12 pp.

Girma Gustavo. 1995. Musk Trade and Export. Proc. Civet Farming, Musk Production and Trade Workshop. May 1995. Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. 45-53. (in amharic).

Hillman,  J.C. 1992. Review of the Traditional Civet Musk Extraction and A Proposal for Establishing a Model Civet Research Project in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation. Ministry of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Development. Transitional Govt. of Ethiopia. 24pp + 5pg appendices.

Hillman, J. C. 1987a. Civet Utilisation and Research. A report to the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation. EWCO. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. 11pp + 3pg appendices.

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Kingdon, J. 1977. East African Mammals: An Atlas of Evolution in Africa. Vol 3/Part A (Carnivores). Academic Press. London, UK. pp 158-167.

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Mallinson, J.J.C. 1972. The Reproduction of the African Civet Viverra civetta at Jersey Zoo. Int. Zoo Yb. Zoological Society of London. 4pp.

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R-Zu-2-U. 2000. African Civet. Internet. Online. USA. 2pp. 21 June 00.

Tamiru Geno. 1995. Civet Quality Control. Proc. Civet Farming, Musk Production and Trade Workshop. May 1995. Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organisation. Addis Ababa. Ethiopia. 40-44.

Tesfaye Hundessa. 1995. Utilisation of Wildlife in Ethiopia. Proc.  Participatory Wildlife Management Workshop; Addis Ababa, August, 1995. pp 69-74. Ministry of Natural Resources Development and Environment Protection and Farm Africa. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Teshome Bantyirgu. 1987. Civet Farming and Musk Production Study (amharic report). Wollega Region Planning Office. 18pp.

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Author: Yilma D. Abebe

 From: //www.iucn.org/themes/ssc/susg/docs/adebe.doc.