A masked palm civet was seen wandering in Central on Hong Kong Island on Thursday, attracting crowds of people taking photos of the creature.

At 10am, the 60-centimeter-long masked palm civet was spotted on the exterior walls of a four-story building at 1-5 Lei Yuen Street West in Central, Sing Tao Daily reported.

The animal wandered from floor to floor, jumping between air-conditioners and sometimes hiding under the canopies, which captured the attention of passers-by and tourists. People were amazed by its agile climbing skills.

Staff from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrived at 11am after receiving a report about the presence of the civet in the city’s busiest area. However, neither the SPCA nor the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department was able to find it after  searching for an hour.

As the civet showed no fear of humans, government officials believed that it had been raised by people rather than coming from the city’s woodlands.

Dr Homan Leung, a researcher with Hong Kong Baptist University’s department of biology, said there were fewer than 1,000 masked palm civets in Hong Kong now, Oriental Daily reported.

This species of civet, which is native to the South Asian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, is under statutory protection in Hong Kong.

The animal has an elongated body that can reach lengths of around 50-76cm, and it widely distributed in countryside areas throughout Hong Kong, except for Lantau Island and the northwestern New Territories.

Any person who contravenes the regulations of the Wild Animal Protection Ordinance shall be liable on conviction to a maximum fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,800) and a year in jail.