July 13, 2008 Past Issues No Comments

An application has been made to import and breed a limited number of savannah cats to be sold as domestic pets in

Serval cat in the wild. The savannah cat hybrid is only 5 generations removed from the wild animal. Photo © Darryl Balfour

Serval cat in the wild. The savannah cat hybrid is only 5 generations removed from the wild animal.
Photo © Darryl Balfour

Australia. A savannah cat is commercial name for a cross-bred of a serval cat (a small African feline predator) and a domestic cat. The savannah cat is advertised as weighing up to 8kg and being able to jump 2m. It resembles the serval in appearance and behaviour.

The issues

The federal Department of the Environment (DEWHA) had to allow the application to import the savannah cats. Under existing law these animals are considered ‘domestic’ because they have been hybrid for 5 generations. However the Minister for the Environment has proposed an amendment to the type of animals currently considered suitable for import to prevent the savannah cats being imported and sold.

The threats

  • Despite the claims of breeders, there can be no guarantee that no cat would ever escape. Just one specimen at large would be able to kill a wide range of large and small native wildlife.
  • It would take only one entire (non-neutered) cat to escape to form a breeding population with local feral cats to cause a biodiversity disaster.
  • Feral cats and domestic cats have contributed to the extinction and near-wiping out of some species of Australian fauna through predation, competition and disease.
  • Allowing the savannah cat to be imported would encourage similar applications to import additional strains of hybrid wild/domestic cats such as the hybrid South American jungle cat. This would not be in the best interests of Australian wildlife.
  • Wild servals live in a range of habitats very similar to Australia’s environment. An escaped savannah cat would be well adapted to our environment.
WPSQ says…

Predation by feral cats is listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Every domestic cat is a potential feral and a potential risk.The introduction of larger hybrid breeds such as the savannah cat is of even greater concern. The impact that these larger predatory breeds would have on wildlife is incomprehensible. Granting permission for the savannah cat will set precedence and allow for the introduction of other similar breeds.

This would escalate the potential threat of these breeds becoming wild and destroying wildlife.

Have your say

Make a submission to the federal Minister for the Environment asking him to change the legislation that currently that allows savannah cats and similar hybrids to be imported. Deadline 17 July 2008.

The federal department has prepared a report for the minister and asked for comments. Make a comment

WPSQ in action

WPSQ has made a submission to the federal government commenting the proposal to amend the List of Specimens Taken to be Suitable for Live Import (Live Import List) urging a ban on the import of savannah cats. We are urging a blanket change to the legislation that defines all 5th generation hybrids as domestic. July 2008

WPSQ wrote to the federal Minister for the Environment, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, and Biosecurity Queensland. We urged that the breed no longer be considered ‘domestic’, so that its importation would be the subject of full consultation and assessment. May 2008

For more information on Wildlife Queensland’s activities, email or phone +61 (7) 3221 0194.

Wildlife Queensland July 2008

Written by Wildlifeqld