On Sunday 28th May, The Civet Project joined zoo staff at Shaldon’s Wildlife Trust in Devon (UK) for Civet Celebration Day! Our team was in attendance to speak to zoo goers about all thing’s civets, and how best the general public can help protect them. Of particular focus, we spoke to visitors about the issue of Civet Coffee, and how to be an ethical tourist when visiting civet home countries.
What is civet coffee and why is it bad?
Civet coffee, often referred to as the most rare, unique, and expensive coffee in the world, is coffee that has been partially digested by civet species- small carnivores from southeast Asia. Yet civet coffee is a product steeped in cruelty and fakery. Civet coffee is neither rare nor unique.
Every day, thousands upon thousands of civets across Asia are held captive and force-fed coffee to supply the global civet coffee market, and The Civet Project’s research has shown that coffee pre-digested by civets has the same structural characteristics as that which has been pre-digested by humans! Not only are civets across Asia caged as coffee producers, but they are now also caged or drugged so that tourists can pose with them for civet selfie photographs. Our research has shown that many tourists are unfamiliar with civet coffee prior to visiting curated civet coffee experiences, and many walk away having unwittingly paid to continue civet exploitation. Tourists also often leave the tour having purchased fake civet coffee.
With the civet coffee industry continuing to grow (it is now estimated to reach a global market value of 10.9billion USD by 2030), it’s vital that consumers and potential travellers are informed about civet coffees dark secrets before they contribute to it. Zoo-based education is therefore an excellent place to start, especially when almost half of all civets in zoos are housed in economically advantaged regions and so their visitors are a primary civet coffee consumer and tourist demographic. The Civet Project was therefore delighted to be invited to Shaldon Zoo on Civet Celebration Day- to help raise awareness for civets!
Civet Celebration Day 2023
Civet Celebration Day was organised and hosted by Shaldon Wildlife Trust, which is home to two Owston’s civet (Chrotogale owstoni) individuals: Lien (Vietnamese for “Lotus flower”) and Con Trai (a slightly less romantic naming, meaning “boy” in Vietnamese). Both Lien and Con Trai, pictured below, are part of the Owston’s civet ex situ breeding program, two of only nine Owston’s civet individuals housed in zoos in Europe. It is hoped that they will soon reproduce to support the conservation efforts of this elusive, beautiful, and highly threatened civet species.
Alongside Owston’s civet, Shaldon Zoo is also home to Orson the binturong (Arctictus binturong), the largest of the Viverrid family (which includes civets, binturongs, genets and oyans). An ancient lineage of carnivores, very little research has focussed on Viverrids, which is one of the reasons for the Civet Projects emergence. All day, Orson kept The Civet Project team company, as they chatted with visitors about the wonders of civets and the dangers of civet coffee.
The zoo was filled with fun civet facts and included interactive opportunities to learn about the impact of civet coffee and tourism. Not only was Civet Celebration Day an excellent outreach opportunity, but it was the ideal moment for The Civet Project to launch our latest initiative: Civet Selfies.
Civet Selfies: A Documentary Project
Civet Selfies is a documentary and social media initiative led by The Civet Project and Fanimal which is scheduled to begin production in November 2023. The creative project, designed to expose the truth behind civet coffee production and tourism, will film for the first time the impact of the civet coffee industry in Vietnam. Most research to date has focussed on civet coffee in Indonesia, yet the lucrative business model has now spread across Asia. Vietnam, home to many civet species including the endangered Owston’s civet, is a prime location for civet coffee production and tourism.
The documentary will include interviews with animal welfare experts and conservationists working on the ground to tackle the civet coffee industry. Many civets in Vietnam fall prey of indiscriminate snaring, a technique which is used to supply the wild meat, fur, and civet coffee industries with wild species. With civet species in decline and their welfare at risk from these exploitative activities, it is therefore more important now than ever to call for a boycott of civet coffee.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Shaldon Zoo for having us at Civet Celebration Day, and for doing such a wonderful job at spreading awareness for civet species. Ten percent of profits on the day went directly to Save Vietnam’s Wildlife who helped establish the Owston’s civet captive breeding program. The Civet Project was pleased to support this outreach and fundraising event.
How You Can Support Civets
The Civet Project is a non-profit organisation which originally emerged as an extension of our founder’s PhD research. Our team is very small, and we work on a voluntary basis to protect civets through research, outreach, and by supporting in-situ partners. There are a variety of ways you can support our activities:
Become a Civet Selfies Sponsor
We are currently raising funds to make the Civet Selfies documentary a reality. We’ve been partially funded by the Culture & Animals Foundation and are seeking match funding as well as one off donations. You can learn more about this project and how to get involved or sponsor us here.
Make a Donation
We welcome one off or monthly donations- all donations directly support our research and outreach activities. You can donate via our secure online payment system. We have both PayPal and credit/debit card payment options.
Become A Civet Champion
You can support our pro-civet message by purchasing one of our sustainable civet-tees! Our teeshirts are made from organic cotton, are packaged using recycled materials, and are created in a factory powered by renewable energy.