he civet cat is a small mammal which belongs to the Viverridae family. In Indonesia these animals are known as Luwaks.
Palm civet cats have a body length of about 53 cm (21 in) and weigh between 2 to 5 kg (4.4 to 11.0 lb). Their appearance resembles a cat at first sight, but their legs are much shorter and its tail is much longer compared to an ordinary cat.
Where do Palm Civet Cats live?
Palm civet cats inhabit almost all parts of Southeast Asia, India, Nepal and Sri-Lanka. Tropical forests are their preferred habitat but they can also be found in logged forests. They are not considered an endangered species, although their population has been affected by increasing deforestation and hunting. In some countries palm civets are also kept as pets. Palm civets are all-eaters or omnivores. Their diet consists of small mammals and insects and also fruits and berries such as the coffee berries. As a beneficial side effect, palm civet cats generously disperse seeds maintaining the tropical-ecosystem due to their movements through the forest.
Why is this animal so famous?
This little animal is most famous due to it’s particular affection for coffee berries. As mentioned previously, palm civet cats living in the wild love eating delicious coffee beans. Usually, they collect just the tastiest beans for their diet.
In the 19th century – when Indonesia was a Dutch colony– it was illegal to sell coffee beans to the local Indonesian population because all the coffee beans were exported to Europe. Therefore, the locals collected the feces of wild palm civet cats because the coffee seeds inside of the droppings were left undigested. Soon, the special flavor of this civet coffee, better known as kopi luwak coffee, became known to the Dutch farmers, who started drinking it themselves.
This was in part a lucky development for the civets. Before kopi luwak coffee became popular, civet cats were seen as a plague by the local farmers because they destroyed farmland and were usually shot on sight. Today, they and more precisely their feces, are seen as a potential cash cow which is why shooting civets has become less popular. Still, their new reputation has some negative side effects. For instance, capturing civets for coffee farming under cruel caged conditions is posing the greatest threat for them today.
© Photo by Denise Chan