Spot the difference

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Have you ever wondered how the small-spotted genet is distinguished from the large variety? Is the large spotted genet larger in size or are their spots larger?

The answer is, 'both' but apart from that, these weasel-like animals are relatively similar. Both of them sport beautifully marked fur, which was quite popular as a raw material for coats when that kind of thing was all the rage. Once you get to know them, it is quite easy to tell them apart from their markings alone. It is unlikely that you will come across them standing together for a size comparison, so this is the easiest way to tell the difference.

The small-spotted genet (Genetta genetta) is the smaller of the two and has distinct black and white blotches, a white chin, white facial markings, a black and white ringed tail with a white tip, and a stripe on its back. This crest of longer black hairs running along its spine can be raised, when alarmed.

To indicate its displeasure, the small-spotted genet emits a hissing sound, similar to that of a cat. Small spotted genets are quite at home in human company and become rather tame. Visitors to Shipandani overnight hide in the Kruger National Park regularly report a nightly visit from one of these creatures during their evening braai, and they often appear at mealtimes in private safari lodges too, sometimes jumping onto the table in search of scraps.

The tail of the large-spotted genet (Genetta tigrina) ends in a black tip, and their coats have a fawn tinge with larger, more irregular spots which consist of a brownish centre ringed in black. The lines along the back are absent and the cream-coloured facial markings are less noticeable, the chin is brown or black. Genetta tigrina measures 210mm at the shoulder.

Genets are nocturnal animals which hunt at night, becoming active about two hours after sunset. They stalk and pounce on their prey and a typical meal might consists of small mammals, insects, bats, birds, reptiles, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions or frogs. The large spotted genet is partial to fruit as well.

Genets are solitary animals, only getting together for the breeding purposes and then going their separate ways. Two litter of two to three young are produced every year and the youngsters are up and about foraging after only a few weeks, although they continue to suckle for several months.

Both types of genet are common throughout Southern Africa, with the small-spotted genet more prevalent in dry woodland areas, while the large-spotted genet favours well-wooded areas with ample water.

If you would like to see one of these pretty night creatures, ask your ranger to try to find one on a night drive, or book an evening meal at one of their favourite restaurants. \


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Sunday, 23 September 2018