THE jungle creature, which has been roaming the gardens of Halesowen, was captured by the RSPCA this morning.

The Asian palm civet was discovered in the garage at the home of Kate and Jamie Goodman in Belbroughton Road, on the Huntlands estate, last night.

It had sneaked inside through a cat flap to shelter from the rain and spent the night curled up in a cat carrier.

Mrs Goodman said her husband discovered the nocturnal mammal - which is closely related to the mongoose - at about 8pm.

It first made a nest in a washing basket, snuggled up in 10-month-old baby Charlie's clothes, before sleeping in the cat carrier.

The couple photographed the civet as it prowled around the garage - and Mrs Goodman lost a bag of Valentine's sweets which her husband had hidden from her when the civet ripped open the packet.

"I don't think it ate many, though, and they were scattered all over the garage," she said.

Mrs Goodman recognised the strange looking animal from the reports in the News and, after locking the cat flap, contacted the RSPCA.

"It was docile, timid and I think it must have been starving," said Mrs Goodman.

The family cat, Benji, could smell the overnight guest, a native of tropical jungles and rainforests, and spent the evening "going bananas" she added.

The RSPCA inspector who called at about 9am was able to gently tip the civet into his carrying cage, without it putting up a fight.

"He said he's never seen one before and was going to contact Dudley Zoo," added Mrs Goodman.

It is thought the civet, which had been roaming the gardens of Halesowen for a couple of weeks, had been kept as an exotic pet and had either escaped or been released.

The News would like to hear from the owner - or anyone with information about who it belongs to.

They can leave a comment or contact the newsroom on 01384 358 259.

Dudley Zoo's registrar and research co-ordinator David Beeston confirmed the RSPCA had been in touch and was keen to find the animal's owner.

He said it could be possible for the zoo to take the civet, but it would have to spend a minimum of 30 days in quarantine and undergo veterinary tests to ensure it was safe to add to the collection.

Civets are at risk in their native environment from being caught for bush meat, the pet trade and civet farms producing kopi luwak coffee - the world's most expensive coffee, which sells in London for £60 a cup.

The civet climbs coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools complete. Coffee farmers harvest the droppings and take the beans to processing plants, but there is a growing trade in which they are caged and force-fed the beans.

The coffee is said to have a "gamy" flavour.