Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 357–367 | Cite as

Genets in the city: community observations and perceptions of large-spotted genets (Genetta tigrina) in an urban environment

  • Craig Widdows
  • Colleen T. Downs


The global increase in urbanization has resulted in exclusion of many carnivore species from human-altered landscapes due to a variety of anthropogenic impacts. However, despite the negative impacts of urbanization on carnivores, certain species exhibit an ability to survive within urban areas. The aim of the study was to solicit community-based information, using a questionnaire mainly, to investigate the distribution of Large-spotted Genets (Genetta tigrina) within the urban environment of the greater Durban district, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and investigate their reported use of anthropogenic structures for resting, breeding and foraging. The study was also designed to determine possible areas of conflict, habitat use and residents’ attitudes towards G. tigrina. Consequently, interviews were conducted in the suburbs of Kloof and Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal to establish information pertaining to genet behaviour, land-use, potential wildlife conflicts and public perceptions with their presence in urban areas. Walking between areas (during foraging bouts or between roost sites) was the main activity observed. Domestic pet food was the main food item genets were observed eating. The most cited cause of genet fatalities were attacks by domestic dogs and collisions with vehicles. Genets were reported using roof spaces for resting during daylight hours and for breeding. Respondents reported providing supplementary food such as meat, chicken and pet food to urban genets. The majority of respondents expressed positive attitudes towards genets in urban Kloof. Negative views stemmed from concerns of disease transfer (RABV) and impacts on wild bird populations. This study illustrated the adaptability of genets to live in urban areas and their ability to utilise anthropogenic resources. Furthermore, the study identified various potential threats to genets in an urban environment.


Carnivore Genet Land-use Perceptions Urbanization 



P. Candotti of the Kloof Conservancy and H. Dennyson from the Crest magazine are thanked for publishing the article in their newsletters, magazines and newspapers. The University of KwaZulu-Natal and National Research Fund (ZA) are also thanked for financial funding. We are grateful for the constructive comments of the reviewers.

Supplementary material

11252_2017_722_MOESM1_ESM.docx (19 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 19 kb)


  1. Baker PJ, Harris S (2007) Urban mammals: what does the future hold? An analysis of the factors affecting patterns of use of residential gardens in great Britain. Mammal Rev 37:297–315Google Scholar
  2. Bateman PW, Fleming PA (2012) Big city life: carnivores in urban environments. J Zool 287(1):1–23. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Beckman JP, Berger J (2003) Rapid ecological and behavioural changes in carnivores: the response of black bears (Ursus americanus) to altered food. J Zool 261(2):207–212. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beckmann JP, Lackey CW (2008) Carnivores, urban landscapes, and longitudinal studies: a case history of black bears. Human–Wildlife Conflicts 2:168–174Google Scholar
  5. Bishop GC, Durrheim DN, Kloeck PE, Godlonton JD, Bingham J, Speare R (2003) Rabies guide for the medical, veterinary, and allied professions. Department of Agriculture and Department of health. Government Printer, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  6. Coetzee P, Nel LH (2007) Emerging epidemic of dog rabies in coastal South Africa: a molecular epidemiological analysis. Virus Res 126(1-2):186–195. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Contesse P, Hegglin D, Gloor S, Bontadina F, Deplazes P (2004) The diet of urban foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and the availability of anthropogenic food in the city of Zurich, Switzerland. Mamm Biol 69(2):81–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eisenberg JF (1981) The mammalian radiations: an analysis of trends in evolution, adaptation, and behavior. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  9. Evans KL, Newson SE, Gaston KJ (2009) Habitat influence on urban avian assemblages. Ibis 151(1):19–39. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fischer JD, Cleeton SH, Lyons TP, Miller JR (2012) Urbanization and the predation paradox: the role of trophic dynamics in structuring vertebrate communities. Bioscience 62(9):809–818. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Francis MJ, Spooner PG, Matthews A (2015) The influence of urban encroachment on squirrel gliders (Petaurus norfolcensis): effects of road density, light and noise pollution. Wildl Res 42(4):324–333. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Frank J, Johansson M, Flykt A (2015) Public attitude towards the implementation of management actions aimed at reducing human fear of brown bears and wolves. Wildl Biol 21(3):122–130. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fuller TK, Biknevicius AR, Kat PW (1990) Movements and behavior of large spotted genets (Genetta maculata gray 1830) near Elmenteita, Kenya (Mammalia Viverridae). Trop Zool 3(1):13–19. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaubert P, Fernandes CA, Bruford MW, Vernon G (2004) Genets (Carnivora, Viverridae) in Africa: an evolutionary synthesis based on cytochrome b sequences and morphological characters. Biol J Linn Soc 81(4):589–610. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gaubert P, Taylor PJ, Fernandes CA, Bruford MW, Vernon G (2005) Patterns of cryptic hybridization revealed using an integrative approach: a case study on genets (Carnivora, Viverridae, Genetta spp.) from the southern African subregion. Biol J Linn Soc 86(1):11–33. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gehrt SD (2007) Ecology of coyotes in urban landscapes. Wildl Damage Manag Conf- Proc 63:303–311Google Scholar
  17. Gehrt SD, Riley SPD, Cypher BL (2010) Urban carnivores. Ecology, conflict and conservation. The Johns Hopkins University Press, BaltimoreGoogle Scholar
  18. Grey-Ross R, Downs CT, Kirkman K (2010) An assessment of illegal hunting on farmland in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: implications for oribi (Ourebia ourebi) conservation. S Afr J Wildl Res 40(1):43–52. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harris S, Cresswell W, Reason P, Cresswell P (1992) An integrated approach to monitoring badger (Meles meles) population changes in Britain. Wildlife 2001: Populations 945–953Google Scholar
  20. Harrison RL (1998) Bobcats in residential areas: distribution and homeowners attitudes. Southwest Nat 43:496–475Google Scholar
  21. Heiss RS, Clark AB, McGowan KJ (2009) Growth and nutritional state of American crow nestlings vary between urban and rural habitats. Ecol Appl 19(4):829–839. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Herrero S (1983) Social behaviour of black bears at a garbage dump in Jasper National Park. Bears: their biology and management, Vol 5. International Association for Bear Research and Management, Madison, pp 54–70Google Scholar
  23. Hoffmann CO, Gottschang JL (1977) Numbers, distribution and movements of a raccoon population in a suburban residential community. J Mammal 58(4):623–636. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Holsman RH, Peyton RB (2003) Stakeholder attitudes toward ecosystem Management in Southern Michigan. Wildl Soc Bull 31:349–361Google Scholar
  25. Ikeda H, Ono Y, Baba M, Doi T, Iwamoto T (1982) Ranging and activity patterns of three nocturnal viverrids in Orno National Park, Ethiopia. Afr J Ecol 20(3):179–186. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones DN (2003) Contemporary urban ecology: the view from the antipodes. Trans Ecol Environ 64:745–753Google Scholar
  27. Kaneko Y, Maruyama N, Macdonald DW (2006) Food habits and habitat selection of suburban badgers (Meles meles) in Japan. J Zool 270:78–89Google Scholar
  28. Kauhala K, Salonen L (2012) Does non-invasive method- latrine surveys- reveal habitat preferences of raccoon dogs and badgers? Mamm Biol 77(4):264–270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kertson BN, Spencer RD, Marzluff JM, Hepinstall-Cymerman J, Grue CE (2011) Cougar space use and movements in the wildland-urban landscape of western Washington. Ecol Appl 21(8):2866–2881. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lembo T, Hampson K, Haydon DT, Craft M, Dobson A, Dushoff J, Ernest E, Hoare R, Kaare M, Mlengeya T, Mentzel C, Cleaveland S (2008) Exploring reservoir dynamics: a case study of rabies in the Serengeti ecosystem. J Appl Ecol 45(4):1246–1257. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  31. Loveridge AJ, Macdonald DW (2003) Niche separation in sympatric jackals (Canis mesomelas and Canis adustus). J Zool 259(2):143–153. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lowry H, Lill A, Wong BBM (2013) Behavioural responses of wildlife to urban environments. Biol Rev 88(3):537–549. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Magle SB, Hunt VM, Vernon M, Crooks KR (2012) Urban wildlife research: past, present and future. Biol Conserv 155:23–32. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Malerczyk C, Nel LH, Gniel D, Blumberg L (2010) Rabies in South Africa and the FIFA soccer world cup. Traveller’s awareness for an endemic but neglected disease. Human Vaccines 6(5):385–389. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (2001) A historical perspective on urban bird research: trends, terms, and approaches. In: Marzluff JM, Bowman R, Donnelly R (eds) Ecology and Conservation of Birds in an Urbanizing World. Kluwer Press, Norwell, pp 1–17. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McCleery RA, Parker ID (2011) Influence of the urban environment on fox squirrel range overlap. J Zool 285(3):239–246. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McIntyre NE, Knowles-Yánez K, Hope D (2000) Urban ecology as an interdisciplinary field: differences in the use of "urban" between the social and natural sciences. Urban Ecosyst 4(1):5–24. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McKinney ML (2002) Urbanization, biodiversity and conservation. Bioscience 52:883–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Morey PS, Gese EM, Gehrt SD (2007) Spatial and temporal variation in the diet of coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area. Am Midl Nat 158(1):147–161.[147:SATVIT]2.0.CO;2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mucina LR, Rutherford MC, Powrie LW (Eds) (2006) Vegetation Map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Strelitzia 19. South African National Biodiversity Institute, PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  41. Murray MH, St Clair CC (2015) Individual flexibility in nocturnal activity reduces risk of road mortality for an urban carnivore. Behav Ecol 26(6):1520–1527. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nel L, Jacobs J, Jaftha J, Meredith C (1997) Natural spill over of a distinctly canidae-associated biotype of rabies virus into an expanded wildlife host range in southern Africa. Virus Genes 15(1):79–82. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Newsome SD, Ralls K, Van Horn Job C, Fogel ML (2010) Stable isotopes evaluate exploitation of anthropogenic foods by the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica). J Mammal 91(6):1313–1321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Newsome SD, Garbe HM, Wilson EC, Gehrt SD (2015a) Individual variation in anthropogenic resource use in an urban carnivore. Oecologia 178(1):115–128. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Newsome SD, Dellinger JA, Pavey CR, Ripple WJ, Shores CR, Wirsing AJ, Dickman CR (2015b) The ecological effects of providing resource subsidies to predators. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 24(1):1–11. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Nunn N, Puga D (2012) Ruggedness: the blessing of bad geography in Africa. Rev Econ Stat 94(1):20–36. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Ordeñana MA, Crooks KR, Boydston EE, Fisher RN, Lyren LM, Siudyla S, Haas CD, Harris S, Hathaway SA, Turschak GM, Miles AK, Van Vuren DH (2010) Effects of urbanization on carnivore species distribution and richness. J Mammal 91(6):1322–1331. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Parker TS, Nilon CH (2012) Urban landscape characteristics correlate with the synurbanization of wildlife. Landsc Urban Plan 106(4):316–325. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pickett STA, Cadenasso ML (2008) Linking ecological and built components of urban mosaics: an open cycle of ecological design. J Ecol 96:8–12Google Scholar
  50. Prange S, Gehrt SD, Wiggers EP (2003) Demographic factors contributing to high raccoon densities in urban landscapes. J Wildl Manag 67(2):324–333. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Prange S, Gehrt SD, Wiggers EP (2004) Influences of anthropogenic resources on raccoon (Procyon lotor) movements and spatial distribution. J Mammal 85(3):483–490. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Purnell RE, Peirce MA, Musoke A (1970) Carnivores as vehicles for ticks carrying disease agents: a possible role of the large-spotted genet, Genetta tigrina, in the epizootiology of east coast fever. Trop Anim Health Prod 2(2):87–89. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Randa LA, Yunger JA (2006) Carnivore occurrence along an urban rural gradient: a landscape-level analysis. J Mammal 87(6):1154–1164. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Riem JG, Blair RB, Pennington DN, Solomon NG (2012) Estimating mammalian species diversity across an urban gradient. Am Midl Nat 168(2):315–332. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Roberts PD, Somers MJ, White RM, Nel JAJ (2007) Diet of south African large spotted genet Genetta tigrina (carnivore, Vivveridae) in a coastal dune forest. Acta Theriol 52(1):45–53. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Roper TJ (2010) Badger. Harper Collins, LondonGoogle Scholar
  57. Rowe-Rowe DT (1992) The Carnivores of Natal. Natal Parks Board, PietermaritzburgGoogle Scholar
  58. Russell TC, Bowman BR, Herbert CA, Kohen JL (2011) Suburban attitudes towards the common brushtail possum Trichosurus vulpecula and the common ringtail possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Austr Zool 35(3):888–894. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Salek M, Drahnikova L, Tkadlec E (2014) Changes in home range sizes and population densities of carnivore species along the natural to urban habitat gradient. Mammal Rev 45:1–14Google Scholar
  60. Saunders G, White CL, Harris S, Rayner MV (1993) Urban foxes (Vulpes vulpes): food acquisition, time and energy budgeting of a generalized predator. Symp Zool Soc Lond 65: 215–234Google Scholar
  61. Savard JPL, Clergeau P, Mennechez G (2000) Biodiversity concepts in urban ecosystems. Landsc Urban Plan 48(3-4):131–142. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Schultz AJ, Tingley MW, Bowie RCK (2012) A century of avian community turnover in an urban green space in northern California. Condor 114:258–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Scott L, Balkenhol N, Hale J, Sadler J, Van der ree R (2015) Ecological connectivity research in urban areas. Funct Ecol 29: 868–878Google Scholar
  64. Skinner JD, Chimimba CT (2005) The mammals of Southern Africa sub region, 3rd edn. Cambridge University Press, New York. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Soulsbury CD, White PCL (2016) Human-wildlife interactions in urban areas: a review of conflicts, benefits and opportunities. Wildl Res 42:541–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Spacapan M (2013) Modelling perceived risk from coyotes among Chicago residents. MSc thesis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  67. Statistics South Africa (2011) Population per municipality. SS Africa. Pretoria, Cape Town: Data FirstGoogle Scholar
  68. Stott I, Soga M, Inger R, Gaston KJ (2015) Land sparing is crucial for urban ecosystem services. Front Ecol Environ 13(7):387–393. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Tigas LA, Van Vuren DH, Sauvajot RM (2002) Behavioural responses of bobcats and coyotes to habitat fragmentation and corridors in an urban environment. Biol Conserv 108(3):299–306. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. White PCL, Vaughan Jennings N, Renwick AR, Barker NHL (2005) Questionnaires in ecology: a review of past use and recommendations for best practice. J Appl Ecol 42(3):421–430. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Widdows C, Downs CT (2015) A genet drive-through: are large spotted genets using urban areas for “fast food”? A dietary analysis. Urban Ecosys 18(3):907–920. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Widdows C, Downs CT (2016) Urban roost temperatures of large-spotted-genets: the effect of anthropogenic structures. J Thermal Biol 57:66–71. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Widdows C, Ramesh T, Downs CT (2015) Factors affecting the distribution of large spotted genets (Genetta tigrina) in an urban environment in South Africa. Urban Ecosys 18(4):1401–1413. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Yirga G, Leirs H, De Iongh HH, Asmelash T, Gebrehiwot K, Deckers J, Bauer H (2016) Spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) concentrate around urban waste dumps across Tigray, northern Ethiopia. Wildl Res 42:563–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Yirga G, Leirs H, De Iongh HH, Asmelash T, Gebrehiwot K, Vos M, Bauer H (2017) Densities of spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta) and African golden wolf (Canis anthus) increase with increasing anthropogenic influence. Mamm Biol 85:60–69. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencesUniversity of KwaZulu-NatalPietermaritzburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations