BUFFALO, New York, October 23, 2021 (ENS) – A conviction for trafficking African feral cats landed a New York man in jail for 18 months for breaking two federal laws – the Lacey Act and the Animal Welfare Act.
“The purpose of the Lacey Act and the Animal Welfare Act is to protect fish, wildlife and other animals, especially those which may be endangered, from individuals who seek to profit from trafficking,” said U.S. Attorney General Trini Ross for the Western District of New York. “The application of these measures is important to ensure that animals, such as exotic African cats in this case, are protected. “
Christopher Casacci, 39, from Amherst, did business as ExoticCubs.com, through which he advertised, imported and sold exotic African cats.
Prosecutors were able to prove that between February and June 2018, Casacci imported and sold dozens of caracals, Caracal caracal, and servals, Leptailurus serval, for $ 7,500 to $ 10,000 each. Prospective owners will likely have paid at least double that price.
Casacci claimed it was operating as a big cat rescue organization in an effort to avoid New York City bans on owning and selling wild animals.
He falsified the transport documents to hide the true species of the cats, instead labeling the animals as domestic crosses, such as Bengal cats, a hybrid of a domestic cat and a leopard cat, or the cats of the savannah, a hybrid of a domestic cat and a serval.
Caracals, also called desert lynxes for their elongated, furry ears, are wild cats native to Africa that weigh around 45 pounds. Servals, also feral cats native to Africa, weigh around 40 pounds. All the animals were sold while they were still kittens. Despite their size and wild nature, Casacci marketed them as “pets.”
Prosecutors have shown that several kittens imported by Casacci died while in his care or days after he sold them, and many live kittens were seized from Casacci during the investigation. The seized animals now reside permanently in approved animal sanctuaries.
Casacci was not licensed to sell the cats under US animal welfare law.
“Selling wild animals as pets not only breaks the law, but also endangers local communities and environments,” said Deputy Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. Justice. “The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the public and our native wildlife from the irresponsible actions of wildlife traffickers. “
Casacci had previously been indicted for his actions in January 2020. The investigation was conducted by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service’s Law Enforcement Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ryan Noel , and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Office of Environmental Crime Investigation.
Caracals and servals in demand as pets
Both species are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, and their commercial possession and sale is restricted by New York State law.
Asian caracals are listed in Appendix I of CITES, which prohibits virtually all international trade. Populations in African range states are included in Appendix II, allowing limited and regulated trade.
Hunting of both species is prohibited from India and Pakistan in the east, throughout the Middle East and across North Africa to Morocco in the west.
While the survival of the caracal was ranked as Least Concern in the Arabian Peninsula in 2011, the species has been listed as Endangered in Jordan since 2000. It was found critically endangered in Pakistan in 2004 and in Morocco in 2003.
Caracals disappeared from Kuwait from 2013; the species is believed to be on the verge of extinction in many parts of North Africa.
Yet as of 2011, Caracal was common and stable in central and southern Africa, much of its global range. Since the declines are localized and none causing significant range loss, the species is globally considered to be Least Concern, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN, which maintains the Red List of Threatened Species.
Serval, too, is classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. It lives in the forests, savannas, wetlands and grasslands of sub-Saharan Africa. The loss and degradation of wetlands inhabited by the rodents they eat is the main threat to servals, and the international pet trade appears to be an emerging threat.
“Wildlife trafficking is decimating the world’s natural resources, so it is essential that we work with our partners to stop these types of illegal activities,” said Deputy Director Edward Grace of the Enforcement Office. of US Fish and Wildlife Service law. “This will help protect against risks to human health and safety and to native wildlife and their habitats and will ensure that future generations can enjoy and benefit from our precious wild heritage.”
The selected image: A male caracal at Sikypark, a Swiss animal rescue park. October 26, 2019 (Photo by Tambako)
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