Newquay Zoo is bidding farewell to one of its rarest animals – but it’s all in a very good cause.

Female Owston’s civet kitten Lien has moved to Shaldon Wildlife Trust in Devon, with the hope that she will become a mum and help to secure the future of her species.

Lien was born at Newquay Zoo in April 2019 to mum Nam and dad Bao. However, it was Head Keeper Dave Rich’s quick actions which saved her life shortly after she was born. Dave continued to hand-rear Lien to adulthood – a world first - to give her the best possible start in life.

Dave said: “We’re very sad to see Lien go as she is such a little character, however from next year she will be at breeding age, so hopefully this will be the start of something big for civet conservation.”

Owston’s civets are small nocturnal carnivores native to Vietnam and the surrounding region. They are listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as populations continue to decline.

The Cornish charity zoo will continue to lead conservation efforts for this beautiful jungle mammal, and hope to breed again this year. The zoo is home to more Owston’s civets than any other collection in Europe, with 5. There are currently just 25 in zoos globally – 11 in Europe and 14 in Vietnam. No one really knows how many are left in the wild.

Keepers introduced new management techniques last year and used them again this winter as they proved successful. The key seems to be to separate the males and females. With many cats and catlike species, separation helps stimulate mating; a deliberate change of smell to mask the male pheromones means that the female then smells him afresh the next time.

Newquay Zoo’s Curator John Meek: “Last year was fantastic, as we were the first zoo to breed civets in 4 years. We’ve used similar techniques to last year, with the approach of ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’.

“This year we rotated our civets every couple of weeks. We currently have 3 female and 2 male civets, so each of the females had a two-week window alone. This seemed to work well last year, because when they were reintroduced to their partner it jump-started mating – leading to the birth of Lien!”

The Owston’s civet breeding season runs from November to early February. The charity zoo is hoping for more success this year to continue efforts to save this beautiful species. Only time will tell as to whether these efforts herald the patter of tiny paws.

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