The common genet, Genetta genetta, is a small viverrid indigenous to Africa that was introduced to southwestern Europe and the Balearic Islands. Also known as the South African small-spotted genet, this nocturnal civet is related to the binturong, Arctictis binturong, and closely resembles the weasel, members of the genus Mustela.
The common genet’s historic range includes much of Africa where it is widely distributed north of the Sahara and in savanna zones south of the Sahara to southern Africa. Common genets are also found across the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Oman. Threats to the common genet are almost exclusively hunting for meat, fur, and body parts and human persecution. Habitat loss and fragmentation is a secondary threat limited to the urbanization of Ibiza. Today, the common genet is found in all of its historic range except for the Nile River in Egypt where it is locally extirpated. The common genet has also been introduced into Europe and is found throughout all of Portugal and Spain, Southwestern France, and remote Northern Italy. It has been recorded in other Western European countries of Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.
Common genets prefer wooded habitats with access to running water but is considered a generalist and can be found widely throughout other habitats where there is suitable prey. It typically avoids open habitats, but may occur in small fragments of wooded land in farmland, savannah, and near human villages though it is absent from rainforests and dense woodlands.
Genets are extremely common throughout their range and have been estimated to reach population densities of 1.5 ±0.4 individuals per kilometer in parts of Africa. In Europe, the species is slightly less abundant and ranges from 0.3 to 0.9 individuals per kilometer. European populations are slowly but steadily increasing.
The common genet mainly feeds on small mammals and insects, though it is known to take birds and other small vertebrates as well as eating fruit.
In many ways, Little Guy is one of our local “legends.” First, he’s an unusual species most visitors haven’t met; second, as a nocturnal creature, he generally only appears during Twilight Tours or other nightly outings; third, he’s shy by nature and doesn’t always greet his interested fans even under the cover of moonlight. He is usually willing to make a celebrity appearance if there is an offering like a juicy mealworm or tiny piece of meat. Little Guy seems to know how much we enjoy his rare daylight appearances, and has developed an A-list appetite to go with his reputation. He’s a huge fan of celery covered in peanut butter and raisins; he’s also known for playing with his food before eating it.