I've always been fascinated by animals, a curiosity present from early childhood. My interest in animal behaviour was first cultivated from books as I did not have pets of my own due to my family suffering from allergies. Every week my dad would take me to the city library and every week I would come home with a new book dedicated to my new "favourite animal". At the age of 18 I moved from my parents’ home so that I could adopt a dog, my childhood dream. Within a month I was sharing my life with a male lurcher, Dylan the Wonder Dog (Dylan for short). As with many Anthrozoologists motivated by their experiences with companion animals, my relationship with Dylan inspired me to investigate the many ways in which humans and animals share, compete and coexist in society.
Throughout my adult life I have dedicated my education and career to the animal industries. In 2013 I graduated with a Distinction in Animal Science and Management before completing my MSc in Primate Conservation. I have worked as a zookeeper, primatologist, animal behaviourist, field assistant and farmhand, always drawn to different opportunities by following my interest in human-animal interactions. I've been lucky enough to work and study in a variety of ecological and developmental contexts including India, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Gibralta and Marakesh. I've witnessed a range of human-animal relationships from human-wildlife conflict to animal worship and I've observed the impact of such inter-species connects on animal and human well-being.
I now lecturer on the Foundation Degree in Applied Animal Behaviour and Conservation and Bachelor of Science (top-up) in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Plumpton College, Sussex. I teach modules ranging from Applied Sampling Methods in Conservation, to Animal Behaviour and Communication and (my personal favourite) Human-Animal Interactions.
My PhD working title is Civets in Society: Understanding the Human-Animal Interactions within Civet Trades. The aims of my research are to investigate the contextual impact of culture, economy and politics within human-civet interactions, whilst challenging the dualistic discourse between humans ("us") and animals ("them"). I will be applying a multi-species approach to ethnographic study by observing civet trades in the UK and Indonesia.
Civet species (family Viverridae), in particular the Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus are responsible for the production of the world’s most expensive coffee: kopi luwak (civet coffee). Kopi luwak is produced by the partial digestion and excretion of coffee beans by civets, prized for the nutty aroma and smooth taste created by the viverrid digestive enzymes. In the past ten years there has been a rising trend throughout Bali in civet coffee tourism involving both caged and free ranging civets and kopi luwak tasting. In conjunction, civets have found themselves to be increasingly popular as pets throughout Indonesia, a practice that is celebrated in public spaces in the form of social events and on social media.
I am also interested in the livelihoods of civets within the UK, where they are managed in zoological collections for various conservation and education objectives. There is currently no available literature that focuses on the effectiveness of ex-situ civet collections on the education of visitors. Visitors who may themselves enter a human-civet interaction as a kopi luwak consumer or wildlife tourist. Overall, literature is sparse for civet trade, and no published study to date has approached the complexities of human-civet interactions in an ethnographic way. Observation, interviews and social media will contribute to the analysis of human perspectives, attitudes and civet experience. I hope my work will contribute towards social change to include promotion of ethical consumerism, tourism and animal welfare.
Civets transgress between the realms of loved companion, novel object, important ecological agent, and exploited other, making them an interesting species for multi-species ethnography. In an age where the status symbols of “animal selfie” and “you only live once” mentalities appear to be prioritised, is the civet fading into the shadows of these complex human-animal relationships despite being one half of the equation?