Celebrating Bao’s legacy

Bao, an Owston’s palm civet who lived at Newquay Zoo, has died aged 17 and a half. So little is known about Owston’s palm civets that there is no average lifespan listed for the species, but it is thought that Bao was one of the oldest civets on record.

Ground-breaking

Bao was born in April 2005 at Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, a non-profit organisation based in Vietnam that protects many of Vietnam’s endangered species through rescue and rehabilitation, along with conservation and advocacy work.

Bao moved to Newquay Zoo in 2014 as part of the Owston’s civets European breeding programme. There are only 10 animals in the programme at the moment, of which four live at Newquay. The zoo has a long history with the species, as it was the first location to hold an ex-situ population back in 2005, and is one of only four zoos in the whole of Europe to hold them.

A mysterious species

The programme has not only resulted in breeding successes, but the presence of the civets has allowed us to observe their behaviours and breeding patterns.

This research is incredibly valuable, as Owston’s civets have been classed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. They have a very restricted range in Vietnam and their numbers are in decline due to habitat loss and hunting. Civets are also solitary, secretive and nocturnal animals, which makes it hard to observe them in the wild.

The next generation

Bao fathered three civets while he was at Newquay Zoo. Seven-year-old female Quy and two-year-old male Lam still live at Newquay, while Quy’s male twin now lives at Port Lympne Wildlife Park in Kent.

This level of breeding success from one individual is a huge achievement. Bao has not only helped to increase the ex-situ population of Owston’s civets, but the insights gained from observing him and his offspring will continue to benefit the species as a whole, for generations to come.