What is Kopi Luwak civet coffee?
Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, has become an international sensation. However, the coffee has a disturbing secret behind it. This exotic coffee sells for $30-$100 per cup and $100-$600 per pound. Retailers of this coffee market it as a rare product sourced from wild civets’ faeces. They claim that suppliers need to forage for partially digested coffee beans in the wild, which only allows 1000 lbs of kopi luwak to be produced each year- justifying the high price tag. This may have been how the coffee was originally sourced, but due to the increasing international demand, this story is now far from the truth. In order to satisfy the global demand, “civet poop coffee” is rarely sourced from the wild; it has become an industrialized product. Wild civets are instead held captive and force-fed coffee cherries to produce an estimated 500 tons of this “farmed” product annually.
The real cost of Kopi Luwak
The global Kopi Luwak market drives the illegal and inhumane civet trade. In the wild, civets are solitary and nocturnal omnivores. Their diets consist of insects and fruit, including coffee cherries. In order to satisfy the demand, suppliers of Kopi Luwak capture civets from the wild and keep them in cramped cages, feeding them almost exclusively coffee cherries. The civets become very distressed from being caged in close proximity to other civets. The extreme stress and unhealthy diet leads to severe health issues and the caged animals frequently die.
Stopping it at the source
Wildlife Alliance park rangers who actively patrol and protect the Cardamom Mountains, Asia’s last great rainforest, are first hand seeing the devastating impacts of Kupi Luwak coffee right at the source. Our rangers often come across civets caught in snares, simple hunting traps made from rope or wire.
Snares are like landmines for animals — every snare is a potential death sentence — and almost every species can fall victim to them, from pangolins to elephants. Made from rope or wire, snares are inexpensive to make and easy to set up meaning they can be laid over the course of kilometres in just a short period, forming walls of death. After the trap is set the poachers can leave and the snares can trap any animal that crosses it. These animals will spend hours struggling to break free, often chewing away at their trapped foot, before they die of exhaustion. Many of the snares Wildlife Alliance rangers collect are made specifically to trap civets to sell to “civet farms” to make coffee.
Civets that survive being caught in a snare are trafficked by poachers to urban centres where they can be sold into the Kupi Luwak coffee trade to live the rest of their life out in a small cage. Our rangers are have removed around 250,000 snares from Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains rainforest and actively arrest poachers and wildlife traffickers; our approach is to fight the trade where it begins — right at the source.