Phoebe the palm civet

Is it a cat? Is it a bear? Is it some kind of wonderfully weird cat/bear hybrid? No, silly – little Phoebe is a palm civet, and she’s very pleased to meet you!

We’ll admit, civets do look a little like small, elongated cats with teddy bear features. In actual fact though, civets are a part of the viverridae family, which also includes the genet and the binturong. (Fun fact: we also have both of these living at Oreo and Friends HQ, but they don’t attend encounters. Click the social media buttons in the sidebar for photos and videos of them!)

Civets are truly wonderful little creatures. Who could resist those beautiful big brown eyes? Phoebe’s markings are stunning, too – she even sort of has a little mask on her face, similar to Oreo’s! One of the most interesting things about her, however, is the scent she gives off. Civets have scent glands at their back ends that act as a chemical defence, and the smell they release makes them smell just like popcorn! You have to sniff it to believe it! In addition to smelling nice, Phoebe’s personality is as nice as can be, too. She’s sweet, cuddly, curious and playful, and she loves attention! Civets are tree dwellers in the wild, so they love to climb all over you and sit on your shoulder.

Civets are omnivores, like raccoons, and eat everything from fruit to insects and small mammals. For some reason, they also have an enormous love of coffee beans, and this has actually caused huge problems for the civets that live in their native Southern Asia. Unbelievably, once the civets have digested the coffee beans and pooped them out, the digested beans are collected and ground up to make the most expensive coffee in the world – ‘Kopi Luwak’. Goodness knows who thought it was a good idea to try tasting civet poop in the first place, but anyway! The producers of this coffee argue that the fermentation that occurs in the civet’s digestive system improves the taste of the beans, and that the fact that the civets only select the best beans to eat further improves the quality.

This is all pretty innocent in principle, if a little bizarre. The problem is that the more traditional method of gathering the beans from wild civets has given way to far more cruel and intense farming methods. Civets are now captured from their homes in the wild, kept in battery cages in awful conditions and force-fed the coffee beans in captivity. Many of these civets are kept in such poor conditions that the resulting high mortality rate may actually pose a threat to wild civet populations. This is especially sad when you consider that civets were previously considered to be of a low concern conservation-wise, as they are hardy and can tolerate a wide range of habitats. Very upsetting!

Thank goodness Phoebe doesn’t have to worry about any of that. She does worry about her civet friends in the wild though, and would like to help us spread the word about the plight of civets through our encounters! She can’t wait to meet you!