Checking traps....

I get a lot of giggles for tweeting this. I catch something everyday, sometimes females, sometimes males...I get more giggles when I tweet this. On Thursday, September 6, 2012 I caught something new, different. I knew right away it was a carnivore and it was beautiful.

I am doing a capture-mark-recapture study of African Pouched Rat, so this what it is called a non-target capture. Since this animal is not on my list to study, (and no other researchers I know are studying it) I released it. But not before taking many pictures. I probably should have taken a skin or fur sample to run the genetics on it, but at the time I was unaware of any researchers who would be interested.

My field assistant was familiar with this animal. His first response was that the animal was a Genita and he told me that was the first name of the scientific name. He then said it was a Kanu, which is the local Swahili name for this cat-weasel animal. That accurately described the animal, but due to language issues I couldn't clarify what he was trying to explain. I definitely wish I had better command of KiSwahili so that I could gather these stories of the animals and nature from the local folks. Especially the men who work as Technicians and Field Assistants at Sokoine University of Agriculture. They definitely have a wealth of Traditional Ecological Knowledge that I know would benefit this research effort. (Working on something for subsequent visits, but if anyone know of some grant/research opportunities in TEK, then please let me know. Asante.) I asked the trainers and staff of APOPO if they were familiar with the animal and none of them were. But one asked me if I still had it. He wanted to eat it. Bush meat is not uncommon here and Kanu is served in some parts of Southern Tanzania I am told.

I sent a tweet to try to learn more about this mysterious animal. And I was not disappointed. It was re-tweeted and right away someone thought Civet. I thought that, too but pictures of Civets I found on the Internet didn't match up.

And then I got independent responses that said Genetta maculata or tigrina. And I thought that had to be it. My assistant said Genetta not Genita (me and my language issues.) In fact @CarrieSeltzer has a paper in press at the Journal of East African Natural History on Servaline Genets. She also sent me a link to an online website to help me identify the exact species I have; but I didn't need to get that specific. (I would have to count number of teeth, pads on foot, and number of teats. I wasn't trying to get that close to it.)

So, my mystery animal is definitely a Genet and it is a Viverid (civet relative) but not a civet nor a feline. It is listed also on the ICUN Threatened Species list, but low priority. This is the most exciting thing I've caught in my traps.