The Luwak

The Luwak or Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus), also known as the Common Palm Civet or the Toddy Cat, is a cat-sized mammal in the family Viverridae native to South-east Asia and southern China who is the responsible of the fame of the Kopi Luwak or Luwak Coffee. Luwak is the Indonesian name given to the Asian Palm Civet. The major population of this animal habits the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago. “Civet” comes from the Arabic word “zabad”.

The species name, Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus, comes from the fact that both sexes have scent glands underneath the tail that resemble testicles (see video). It can spray a noxious secretion from these glands.

Indonesia map web

Size and description

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Suborder: Feliformia
  • Family: Viverridae
  • Subfamily: Paradoxurinae
  • Genus: Paradoxurus
  • Species: Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus
The Asian Palm Civet or Luwak averages 3.2 kg (7 lb), has a body length of 53 cm (21 in) and a tail length of 48 cm (19 in). Its long, stocky body is covered with coarse, shaggy hair that is usually grayish in color, with black on its feet, ears and muzzle. Luwak has three rows of black markings on its body. The Luwak is solitary, nocturnal and arboreal. The activity period, from 18:00 to 04:00, is influenced by daylight. Palm Civets become active only after dark and retreat to rest sites just before dawn. They spend the day asleep in a tree hollow. They are territorial. Young Luwaks are born in tree hollows or in boulder crevices. It was pursued by humans, who killed them for damaging orchards and plantations but now, due to the extra incoming the farmers have for selling the Luwak’s feces, it looks like they are the king of the plantations.

Feeding and diet

coffee_cherry2The Luwak or Asian Palm Civet is a nocturnal omnivore. Its primary food source is pulpy fruits such as coffee berries, mango, and rambutan. Luwak is said to pick its fruit carefully, apparently leaving the less ripe fruit for a later date. It will also eat small mammals and insects. It also has a fondness for palm flower sap which, when fermented, becomes toddy, a sweet liquor (habit which earns one of its alternate names the ‘toddy cat’) but Luwaks love coffee cherries and in coffee harvesting times they are the only thing they eat. It inhabits forests, parks and suburban gardens with mature fruit trees, fig trees and undisturbed vegetation. Its sharp claws allow it to climb trees and house gutters.