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Say No to Cat-Poo-Chino

Cerys Deakin explores the difficulties being faced by civets and hopes to get new people on board with celebrating and supporting the efforts at The Civet Project.

So, let’s start with some questions – Do you know what a civet is? Do you know what threats to welfare that civets face?

As a student on the frontline of conservation I assumed that I knew about all endangered species, but how wrong I was. When starting my work with The Civet Project, I had no idea what a civet was or that there was a looming civet coffee industry. In hindsight, this is a huge widespread concern. Now I know the problems that civets are facing, I am working closely with the first official charity for the protection and preservation of civets, to share this newfound knowledge and encourage others to take action.

Image Credit: The Civet Project

Founded by Jes Hooper in 2019, The Civet Project aims to promote the welfare and conservation of civets and related species found within the Viverridae family. Since first being founded the team has grown and continued to work hard to publish papers, create events and encourage conservation. These events and projects include the first official World Civet Day and the production and release of the documentary ‘Civet Coffee: From Rare to Reckless’.

Common Palm Civet Max. Image Credit: Wingham Wildlife Park.

So, what is a civet you ask? Civets are small carnivorous mammals, generally solitary and are nocturnal so it’s very rare to see them during the day! Often, this species is mistaken for racoons or cats, but they are more closely related to the mongoose.

Do you drink coffee? How much coffee do you drink? Could you imagine only consuming coffee for the rest of your life? Well, this is what Civets are being forced to do across the globe, to produce civet coffee, more commonly known as Kopi Luwak. Civet coffee is produced when civets consume coffee cherries. They are unable to totally digest the beans and they remain in the scat, with a slightly altered chemical composition. Consumption of civet coffee first began when farmers collected the scat of the civets, as they were not allowed to consume the coffee being produced in the plantation. It was soon discovered that this coffee had a unique taste that was different from the coffee being grown in the plantation. The civet coffee industry experienced exponential growth following the release of the film The Bucket List in 2007, whereby ‘kopi luwak’ is presented as a luxury desirable product.

Image Credit: Jack Wootton

Since the release of this film in particular, the civet coffee industry has seen immense growth, but is this a good thing? To maintain the industry and the demands for what has been labelled as a luxury item, civets across the globe are experiencing what can only be described as torture. Due to rising popularity, the industry relies on the capturing of wild civets, often through the use of illegal snaring, and forces them to live where they are often only fed coffee cherries. The nature of this industry often leaves individuals injured, stressed and expressing abnormal behaviors – such as tail chewing.

However, it’s not just the coffee production that is the issue. The civet coffee industry is suggested to be built upon falsified advertising – whether that be that coffee is ‘wild caught’ or that civets on show are kept in the correct conditions. Often, coffee shops and plantations will feature drugged animals that are on show for tourists to take photographs with. This leaves me with another question for you – is a photograph really worth compromising an animal's welfare? 

This year marks the first official World Civet Day, on the same date that the conservation action plan for the Owston’s civet was signed. This day hopes to raise awareness for civets and encourage greater protection and conservation for the species.  We hope to see many people joining in celebrating civets and helping to raise awareness for a lesser-known species. Alongside this, The Civet Project will be premiering their new documentary in hope to enlighten people about the horrors of this industry.

For information on how you can get involved check out The Civet Project website here:

About the Author: Cerys Deakin is a third year Zoologist at the University of Exeter, with a passion for conservation. Cerys has been working closely within The Civet Project team since November 2023 and has developed a love and passion for the civet species. Please join Cerys and the rest of the team in celebrating this World Civet Day and say no to Cat-Poo-Chino. For more information check out The Civet Project on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. You can also find out more about Cerys’ studies and skills on her LinkedIn page. 

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