Genet Identification

13 - Kgalagadi South Africa 201212 - Okavango Delta Botswana 200911 - Okavango Delta Botswana 200910 - South Luangwa Zambia 200909 - South Luangwa Zambia 200908 - South Luangwa Zambia 200907 - Tsavo West Kenya 201006 - Tsavo East Kenya 201005 - Aberdare Kenya 200904 - Aberdare Kenya 200903 - Shimba Hills Kenya 200902 - Shimba Hills Kenya 200901 - Shimba Hills Kenya 2008Hi…

Sorry for so much detail regarding this, and for a few of the lousy pictures, but I would appreciate some feedback regarding the genet identification below, particularly concerning the way in which we use a mammals range in order to determine identification. As I am sure most of you are aware, the range maps on most websites, including the IUCN, are not entirely reliable and I have recently encountered both Patagonian Weasel and Striped Hog-nosed Skunk well beyond their generally accepted range.

Please therefore let me have your views regarding my identification of the following:

Pictures one to three were taken at Shimba Hills on the coast of Kenya over a couple of different trips. According to range, these can only be Genetta maculata or Genetta genetta.
My id – Genetta genetta

Pictures four to five were taken at Aberdare in the Kenyan highlands.
According to range, these can only be Genetta maculata, Genetta genetta or Genetta servalina
My id – Genetta maculata

Pictures six to seven were taken at Tsavo East and Tsavo West in Kenya.
According to range, these can only be Genetta maculata or Genetta genetta.
My id – Genetta genetta

Pictures eight to ten were taken at South Luangwa in Zambia.
According to range, these can only be Genetta maculata, as neither Genetta genetta or Genetta angolensis are supposed to extend as far as South Luangwa, although G.angolensis does go fairly close.
My id – Although I believe that number eight probably is G.maculata, I think that nine and ten are both G.angolensis beyond their accepted range.

Pictures eleven to twelve were taken in the Okavango Delta.
According to range, these can only be Genetta maculata or Genetta genetta.
My id – Genetta genetta

Picture thirteen was taken in the South African section of the Kgalagadi
According to range, this can only be Genetta genetta.
My id – Genetta genetta

Agree or disagree? Please let me know if you can and also, how many of you are prepared to identify a species on range alone?

Many thanks


  1. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar Author
    jasonwoolgar 7 years ago

    Sorry, pictures have been published in reverse order for some reason, so one is at the bottom and thirteen at the top?

  2. Profile photo of vdinets
    vdinets 7 years ago

    I’ll look at the pictures later today, but for now I recommend that you email the photos to Philippe Gaubert, gaubert at
    He is the best expert on genet taxonomy and biogeography.

  3. Profile photo of vdinets
    vdinets 7 years ago

    OK, I’ll go from 13 to 1, too.

    #13: Jennings & Veron in HMW consider G. felina a separate species, and their maps show it as the only species in Kgalagadi area. The book text says that G. felina has light rings twice as wide as dark rings near the middle of the tail (as on your photo), while in G. genetta they are the same width. But the picture of G. felina in the same book shows it the other way around 🙂

    #11-12: G. genetta has pale tail tip and G. maculata has it dark. Do you remember what the tail tips were like, or do you maybe have photos showing them? I think #12 looks more like G. maculata, while #11 is more like G. genetta

    #8-10: HMW maps show G. angolensis as occurring in Luangwa Valley, and I am pretty sure I’ve seen both species there. Could you tell your rationale for identifying #9-10 as angolensis? It tends to have less checkerboard-like pattern AFAIK.

    #6-7: yes, G. genetta dongolana, I think.

    #4-5: I agree; G. maculata.

    #1-3: Dark tail tip and large spots, so it should be G. maculata as well.


  4. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar Author
    jasonwoolgar 7 years ago

    Thanks Vladimir, I really appreciate your time on this.

    I agree re 13 and G.felina, but believe that it is now classified within G.genetta.

    Re 9 & 10, one of my guides thinks G.angolensis but my id is also based on range, as G.genetta does not appear to reach the Luangwa Valley, or come that close according to the range maps that I am using. This is one of the reasons that I asked whether people tend to identify by range, as I am not certain that this method is very reliable.

    I cannot really disagree either regarding your identification of 1 to 3, as I am aware of the large spots and general dark tail tip re G.maculata. However, all I can say is that there must be massive variations at ssp level and between areas, as the animal in pictures 4 & 5, which we both agree is G.maculata, was very different to the animal in pictures 1 to 3, both of which I know had reached full maturity from the amount of time they had visited each lodge.

    Will probably leave 9 and 10 as unidentified then, but it is interesting and I am hoping to get decent photographs of G.servalina in Uganda next month,

    Thanks again for your help.


  5. Charles Foley 7 years ago

    Hi Jason,

    Here are my suggested identifications. Broadly speaking, genetta is a dry country species (700mm or less), angolensis is strictly a miombo or residual miombo species, maculata is everywhere except in the driest areas, and servalina is found in densely forested areas with high rainfall. G. maculata overlaps with all 3 other species, though, as far as I know, the others don’t overlap at all.

    13 G. genetta
    12 Probably G. maculata
    11 Can’t tell for sure though probably G. genetta
    9-10 80% sure they’re G. angolensis. They appear to have rear black socks, and the tail is bushy in the centre. The spots are more bold on the rear flanks than is typical for angolensis, though I have seen some individuals of this species with similar patterning in southern Tanzania.
    8 Can’t tell
    7 Definitely G. genetta
    6 Can’t tell
    1-5 Definitely G. maculata

    I hope you get your servalina in Uganda.


  6. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar Author
    jasonwoolgar 7 years ago

    Thanks Charles, again much appreciated.

    I am going to post another picture of 11, as I have seen G.genetta with both the pale and dark tail tip.

    Let me know what you think when you see the second picture.


  7. Profile photo of Jon Hall
    Jon Hall 7 years ago

    For what it’s worth I’d agree with Charles’s assessment too though he is much more expert than me on this. I also saw what I have put down as Angolan Genet in the Luangwa Valley.

    Its a good question about the extent to which I let range dictate my ID. It depends I guess. When I ID something its based on a mix of information. Of course what the animal looks like is going to carry the most weight but range, habitat type, behaviour all play a part and can reassure me that I know what I’m looking at, or raise a warning flag. So if I see something I think is species X, but then see that species X is not know from that area, I will try to find someone who knows more than I do. Range maps are often wrong and out of date but sometimes the area has been really well studied and it would be more likely I’d seen an escaped pet than the real deal. etc. Terrestrial mammals are much less mobile than birds though so I think known range ought to carry more weight in a difficult ID than it does for birds.


    • Profile photo of vdinets
      vdinets 7 years ago

      I agree, it all depends on the circumstances. If you drive a Florida road after a day of hard work and briefly see what you think looks like a Gambian pouched rat crossing the road 200 m ahead, chances are it’s an opossum. But if you see a supposed DRC endemic in Rwanda within five miles of DRC border, perhaps the book is wrong (that happened to me once, and the book really was wrong).
      As for reliability of range-based identifications, I usually count them as reliable, unless there is some reason to doubt it, or the other species is known to occur within a short distance (something like <100 km for places like N America or Europe, more for Central Africa and the like). Larger mammals' distribution is usually better known, but they are also more capable of moving long distances (thousands of miles in case of big cats). For bats and cetaceans, range-based identification is seldom reliable, although if you see a small porpoise in the northern Sea of Cortez, I think you can be fairly certain it's a vaquita rather than a harbor porpoise.

  8. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar Author
    jasonwoolgar 7 years ago

    Thank you all, much appreciated and very helpful.


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