Ernai is the most privileged of 397 masked palm civets at a civet farm in Shanwei, Guangdong province - he is the only one allowed to run about while the others are caged. But tomorrow his status will not save him, as all the civets in the farm owned by the San Xie Zhong Yang Trading Company will be put down. 'We will kill them with rat poison. There is no need to feed them any more. It's a waste of feed. It costs us 300 yuan a day to feed them,' said Mr Zhang. His farm is one of 41 in Guangdong. He has invested 3 million yuan in the farm, which was converted from a former shoe factory. The provincial government's decision to cull masked palm civets has dashed his hopes of breeding enough animals to sell to the lucrative Japanese market in three years. 'We know the people's health is important. We support the policy [to cull masked palm civets] but I am appealing to the government not to let me lose so much money,' said Mr Zhang. 'If they compensate us on the basis of the market price, which is so low now, I'll lose terribly.' Mr Zhang was lured into raising masked palm civets by the success of a friend who farmed the animals in Taiwan and exported two-week-old animals to Japan at a price of NT$3,000 (HK$686) each. 'The Japanese love them because they are so adorable,' he said. 'They can catch rats and cockroaches.' Mr Zhang bought about 700 animals from Chatou wild animal market in Guangzhou two years ago, but about half of them died because they could not adjust to their new environment. Ernai's mother gave birth to a litter of four but was too distressed to look after them, said Liu Huaying, a worker on the farm. 'He was the only one that survived,' he said. 'We picked him up and bottle-fed him.' Because of fears that the animals would infect people with the Sars virus, orders have been given to kill them in a way that avoids bleeding. An official said the carcasses will be buried in pits lined with lime. Two young police officers assigned to the farm - to ensure that no outsiders entered the property - said they were 'frightened to death'. 'We have been told to stay here for four days. We do not go near the cages. I don't want to die before I get married,' one of them said. Meanwhile, Ms Liu crushed some canary tree fruit under her foot to feed to Ernai. Holding the civet in her arms to show reporters, she told it: 'Don't be a masked palm civet in your next life.'