6 June 2007
Wild-domestic fashion pets sneaking past quarantine
leaves native animals at risk
Serval-cat “supercat” shouldn’t be let in without scrutiny
A loophole in Australia’s biosecurity system means hybrid African Serval-domestic cat crosses can be imported into the country with no assessment of their potential to decimate native wildlife.
Chief Executive of the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Professor Tony Peacock, pointed out the loophole to the Quarantine and Biosecurity Review in Canberra today. “Hybrids of wild animals and domestic animals are a stupid American trend to breed more and more exotic pets” says Professor Peacock. “No one anticipated such animals when our quarantine laws were formulated, so we apply a definition that a fifth generation wild-domestic cross is legally a “domestic” animal and so escapes proper scrutiny”.
“Fourteen of these wild-cross cats are currently in quarantine on their way to Australia and have apparently passed all Federal requirements. We hope the Queensland Government will classify them Class 1 Pest Animals under State Legislation and ban them, but this sort of thing should be a Federal responsibility. An Adelaide breeder is advertising animals available in 2009”.
“This loophole will effectively lead to fitting a nuclear warhead to our already devastating feral cat population. So-called “Savannah cats” are more than double the size of domestic cats and can jump two metres from a standing start. Haven’t our native animals got enough to contend with?”
The practice of hybridising wild and domestic animals deserves much more scrutiny itself. An American breeder describes the issue on her own website:
…it can be extremely difficult to accomplish the Serval to domestic cat breeding. Whether it be the Serval male to the domestic female (which is most often the case), or to attempt a female Serval to a domestic male ... because the Serval body type is so much longer and taller, this makes the pairing physically quite challenging. Add to that the differences in behavior between a wild cat and a domestic cat, and in some cases, too much aggression on the part of an intact adult Serval ...
“I think anyone that forced a mating of an African Serval and a domestic cat in Australia would find themselves in serious discussion with animal welfare authorities” said Professor Peacock. “It is certainly a practice we shouldn’t condone by allowing people to import this new style of fashion animal. We need to update our quarantine rules to keep up with this exotic pet trend”.
The same loophole would allow a variety of hybrid cats and potentially wolf-dog hybrids if they pass disease regulations.
“The Quarantine and Biosecurity Review provides a great opportunity to point out anomalies that need attention. This issue has arisen from the practice of breeding new animals that did not exist when laws and regulations were framed.”
“Our native animals are at risk because of a fashionable desire to own an exotic pet. The impact on these vulnerable species will remain long after the fashion dies out” said Professor Peacock.
Fashion breeds of cat bred through mating wild cats:
"Bengal Cat" hybrid with Leopard Cat Prionailurus bengalensis (SE Asia, 6.8 kg) (already in Australia)
"Savannah Cat" hybrid with Serval Leptailurus serval (Africa, 20 kg)
"Safari Cat" hybrid with Geoffroy's cat Leopardus geoffroyi (S. America, 4 kg)
"Chausie" hybrid with Jungle Cat Felis chaus (Asia, 16 kg)
"Serengeti cat" Bengal cat/ Asian Short-haired cat hybrid
See Big Cat Rescue’s concerns: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiLAcEp5Vng
Prof Tony Peacock
Invasive Animals CRC
Ph: 0402 036 110
University of Canberra, Canberra ACT 2601