First genet spotted in Switzerland

A stuffed common genet in Geneva's Natural History Museum Philippe Wagneur/Geneva Natural History Museum

Infrared video has captured the first known images of the common genet, a catlike nocturnal animal with a ringed tail, in a forest in Switzerland. This means there are now 99 species of wild mammals in the Alpine country.

This content was published on June 11, 2020 - 16:01

The common genet (Genetta genetta) has a slender body, a small head with a pointed muzzle, large oval ears, large eyes and well-developed whiskers. It was spotted in a forest in canton Geneva thanks to infrared cameras which detect heat and produce thermal images.

All genet species originate in Africa and have a dark stripe tracing the spine. In Europe, populations of the nocturnal animals prosper above all in the Iberian Peninsula and in southwestern France, Geneva Natural History Museum said in a statement on Thursday. They are found in a more isolated and sporadic manner as far south as the Loire and, more recently, east of the Rhone.

In an article in the Swiss Journal of Zoology, published by the museum, the authors dismiss the theory that the animal caught skulking around the municipality of Bernex had escaped from a zoo.

Natural phenomenon

“The presence of the common genet in the Geneva region is explained by a natural phenomenon of geographical expansion currently underway in Western Europe,” the museum said.

The small carnivore has in recent years already been observed just across Geneva’s border with France in Haute-Savoie, it said.

As a result of this discovery, the common genet will feature in the new Atlas of Mammals of Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which the Swiss Society of Wildlife Biology plans to publish in 2021.

According to the authors of the article, an increase in the number of sightings of the species in western Switzerland is to be expected over the next few decades, with a natural expansion towards the east and north.

The Geneva Natural History Museum says the small predator does not pose a problem for coexistence with other carnivorous species, “but it can be added to the long list of rodent lovers, to the delight of farmers”.

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