The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has formulated a proposal under Part 13A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) to amend the List of Specimens taken to be Suitable for Live Import . A draft assessment report has been prepared by the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) against the terms of reference approved by the Minister. The draft report assesses the suitability of import of the Savannah Cat into Australia. Comments were invited on the draft report for 20 business days, closed on 17 July 2008.
Savannah cats, which can weigh more than 13kg, are described in the report as ''the result of selective breeding to establish desirable features (eg: large ears or wild-looking colouration and patterns) or temperament suitable for demand of the companion cat market''.
Mr Garrett said the report suggested the potential breeding in of wildcat genes to the existing feral cat population could lead to even more killing of Australian native animals. Savannah cats are a cross between a serval, which is an African wildcat, and a domestic cat and they can grow much larger than normal domestic cats. This report notes that there is potential for these cats to adapt to the Australian environment. Estimates suggest there could already be up to 12 million feral cats across Australia and they are already one of the single biggest killers of Australian native animals. The report also suggests that the potential breeding-in of wildcat genes to existing feral cat populations could see them develop even better hunting skills.
The minister said he would not hesitate to use his powers to prohibit the importation of the cats ''if it is necessary to protect the environment''.
Mr Garrett has allowed 20 working days for comment on the draft report.
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. WPSQ is urging a blanket change to the legislation that defines all 5th generation hybrids as domestic.
Visit the web page Savannah cats: the case against importation to read more about this issue.
RSPCA Australia has commented that allowing Savannah cats, which are currently classed as domesticated after five generations of breeding from their wild ancestors, into Australia would be a huge mistake.
Australian veterinarians have also commented strongly against the importation of more wild-domestic pet hybrids like the savannah cats currently in quarantine.
The report Draft environmental assessment of the suitability of the import of the Savannah Cat (Domestic Cat x Serval hybrid specimens) into Australia 19 June 2008 is available online here.
Comments received and any relevant additional information provided will be considered by DEWHA in finalising the assessment report.
Submissions should be in writing and sent to
Exotic Species Regulation Section
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
GPO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Australian wildlife is already endangered by many threats - habitat clearing, climate change, introduced feral animals.
Senator Christine Milne from the Green presented a petition to the federal government 26 June 2008. This is available in Hansard. This petition can be accessed here. This was begun by an online herpetology discussion group.
The University of Sydney's professor of ecology, Chris Dickman, is warning these hybrid cats would be uncontrollable in Australia. "It hasn't come in through the usual quarantine processes or risk assessments that would otherwise need to be done." Forty of the nation's leading feral animal researchers are calling for urgent changes to prevent hybrid supercats from being imported into Australia.
The Australian environment is suffering from the humble domestic cat gone feral. Imagine the carnage from a bigger stronger feral cat bred from an already wild animal.
For more coverage on this topic see news from Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre's CEO Tony Peacock at this site and petitions both for and against importation.
Information on the damage feral cats are currently doing is provided at this cat facts page.
Help stop the importation of hybrid cats such as "Savannah cats"! Please participate by signing the petition and let the Honorable Peter Garret, Minister for Environment, Heritage and The Arts and the Senate know that these hybrid killing machines don't belong here or comment on the draft report by 17 July 2008.
An African Serval is the most efficient wild cat hunter in Africa. Australia's quarantine regulations make it legal for a cat that is only five generations away from a purebred serval to come into the country. In a 2007 paper in Science, Carlos Driscoll of Oxford University showed that domestication of the cat probably began 12,000 years ago and was completed 8,000 years ago. New designer breeds of cat didn't exist 25 years ago.