The Large Spotted Genet is a great example of dynamite in a small package. These lithe omnivores weigh only around 1 – 3kg, are around a meter long (including the tail) and stand just 15cm high at the shoulder, but they’re skilled predators of anything up to the size of hares, small crocodiles and guineafowl and include such varied fair as invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crabs, rodents carrion and fruit in their diet. Large Spotted Genets inhabit mesic savannas, riverine woodlands and forests.
Large Spotted Genets are nocturnal and very rarely seen in the daylight, usually only becoming active well after nightfall. By day they hide in thickets, holes in trees, crevices among boulders, tunnels dug by other animals and even in the roofs of buildings. Though they are excellent climbers and can jump distances of up to 4m between trees, they do most of their hunting on the ground. They are mostly solitary, any groupings encountered being either a mating pair or mother with young.
Females give birth to between 1 and 5 pups in spring and summer after a two month gestation period. The young are weaned at 2 months after birth, but will remain with their mother until they are around 6 months old. They are fully grown by about 11 months and have a life expectancy of between 8 and 14 years in the wild. Large Spotted Genets fall prey to a wide range of predators, including large owls, pythons, leopards, caracal and jackals.
The IUCN lists the Large Spotted Genet as being of least concern. It occurs from Kwazulu-Natal, through Mpumalanga and the eastern half of the Limpopo Province, through much of our neighbouring states to the north and throughout central and eastern Africa as far as Burkina Faso in the west and Eritrea in the northeast.
The Cape Genet, or South African Large Spotted Genet (Genetta tigrina), which occurs from the Western Cape along the coast and adjacent interior as far north as Durban in Kwazulu-Natal, is difficult to distinguish from the Common Large Spotted Genet (G. maculata) and is considered the same species by some authorities.