Tirupati temple to fund breeding of civet cats

The musk secreted by the felineis used in religious rituals

Tirupati temple to fund breeding of civet cats

The species to be bred is called the small Indian civet (viverricula indica). It is a two-foot long feline of yellowish or brownish gray colour, with stripes on the back and spots on the side. It produces a musk, called civet, which can artificially be removed from its glands.

The smelly musk is required as an ingredient in the rituals in Tirumala temple. But since these nocturnal animals are not commonly found in the wild and use of products made from them are barred under the law, the TTD plans to breed them in the Tirupati zoo. 

“We need to create a nocturnal house facility for breeding in the zoo, which the TTD agreed to fund. But we have not yet finalised the agreement,” S Sarvanan, director of the Tirupati zoo told Deccan Herald.

A thorny issue between the temple board and officials is preventing the partnership happen. The TTD wants a written commitment specifying that it would be allowed to take the musk from the animals, which the forest officials are reluctant to give.  “The project can materialise only when the Andhra Pradesh government approves it. It has not gone to that stage,”said K Pradeep, divisional forest officer at Tirupati.

The zoo currently has three small Indian civets but may need to bring in a few more animals from other zoos before launching the unique breeding programme.

While some of the civet cat species have become almost extinct, the number of small India civets too has reduced drastically due to destruction of their natural habitat. The animal lives in holes in rocky and bushy locations.

One of the cousins of small Indian civets, the Malabar Civet (viverra civettina), has gone nearly extinct. Considered one of the world’s rarest mammals, it is endemic to India and was first reported from Kerala. It is found exclusively in the Western Ghats.

Releasing a list of 57 critically endangered species,  the union environment and forest minister Jairam Ramesh said on Wednesday that the ministry had taken up interventions for nine species and their respective habitats.

Recovery programmes are ongoing for leatherback turtles, Malabar Civet Floricans, four species of critically endangered vultures and Jerdon Courser, a nocturnal bird. A programme involving three states may soon be launched to revive gharials in central Indian rivers through artificial breeding.

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