Asian palm civets are small cat-sized mammals that live in South and Southeast Asia. Their long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually greyish in color. There is a white mask across the forehead, a small white patch under each eye, a white spot on each side of the nostrils, and a narrow dark line between the eyes. The muzzle, ears, lower legs, and distal half of the tail are black, with three rows of black markings on the body. The tail is without rings, unlike in similar civet species.
Asian palm civets are native to India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Bawean and Siberut. These animals usually inhabit primary and secondary forests, seasonally flooded peat swamp forest, mangroves, oil palm, and teak plantations. They are also present in parks and suburban gardens with mature fruit trees, fig trees, and undisturbed vegetation.
Asian palm civets lead a solitary lifestyle, except for brief periods during mating. They are both terrestrial and arboreal, being active during the night with peaks between late evening until after midnight. During the day they usually rest in trees or inside rock crevices. All palm civets are more active when food is in ample supply and when predators are out. The presence of food also affects if civets have overlapping territories or not. When food is available in their region, the territories do not overlap, but when civets need to search for food they usually travel to other territories. Males travel further in a day than females. These animals are expert climbers but less agile than other civets because their tail is non-prehensile. They move slower and need to grasp branches to move from tree to tree, instead of jumping. Asian palm civets are usually silent but can produce sounds similar to meows. When threatened they will snarl, hiss, and spit. Instead of using vocalizations, these animals use their scent gland as their main way of communication. They mark their territories by dragging their anal glands on the ground.
Asian palm civets are omnivores. They eat fruits such as berries, chiku, mango, rambutan, and coffee, but also small mammals and insects. They also feed on palm flower sap.
Due to their solitary and nocturnal habits, little information is known about the mating system in Asian palm civets. They breed throughout the year and have up to two litters per year. They choose the resting tree to mate, give birth, and take care of young, and will stay there whole mating period. Females give birth to 2-5 pups after a gestation period that lasts 2 months. Pups are born with their eyes closed and weigh only around 80 grams. Their eyes open at around 11 days and by 2 months of age they are weaned. Young civets become independent at 3 months of age and reach reproductive maturity when they are one year old.
In some parts of its range, Asian palm civets are hunted for bush meat and the pet trade. In southern China, these animals are extensively hunted and trapped. These civets are popular for the world’s most expensive coffee, the Kopi Luwak. This coffee is traditionally made from the feces of wild civets, however, due to it becoming a trendy drink, civets are being increasingly captured from the wild and fed coffee beans to mass-produce this blend. Many of these civets are housed in battery cage systems which have been criticized on animal welfare grounds. The impact of the demand for this fashionable coffee on wild palm civet may also pose a significant threat.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Asian palm civet is unknown. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are increasing.
Asian palm civets eat berries and pulpy fruits as a major food source and thus help to maintain tropical forest ecosystems via seed dispersal. These animals also play an important role in the natural regeneration of some kinds of palms at Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park as they feed on the seeds of those palms.