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Newquay Zoos civets participate in ground-breaking research

Newquay Zoo’s Owston’s civets are leading the way in a ground-breaking reproductive project to learn more about these rare and mysterious animals.

Owston’s civets are Endangered in the wild, and so elusive that very little is known about them. The new research involving Newquay Zoo’s civet population will help to shed more light on the species, their mating habits and their reproductive health, in order to help ensure their continued survival.

The research is being conducted using a range of methods, from ultrasounds, to the assessment of sperm samples and hormone levels present in faecal samples. Further sperm samples have been taken and cryopreserved for use in the future if needed. These sample will be kept by Nature’s SAFE: a biobank that stores living cells of animals – like Owston’s civets – that are at risk of extinction.

There are only 10 animals in the Owston’s civets European breeding 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.

The project is a collaboration between specialists from the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Reproductive Management Group, ECOlifes and Nature’s SAFE, together with Wild Planet Trust, Newquay Zoo’s parent charity.

The tests were carried out by Wild Planet Trust Veterinary Officer Christa van Wessem, who is also the Veterinary Advisor for the Owston’s civet breeding programme.

Christa said: “With this project we have already learned so many new things about this species – such as what constitutes as normal internal and external anatomy, along with healthy blood values – which will be invaluable for future breeding efforts. 

“This project is the first of its kind, and we are hoping it can be used as a template for future breeding projects of civets and other species too.”

Wild Planet Trust is the parent charity of both Newquay Zoo and Paignton Zoo, and its mission is to help halt species decline through education, research and conservation both in the UK and overseas.