A catastrophe waiting to happen
The Savannah cat is a cross between an African serval and a domestic cat. They are being advertised online for $5000 for a sterile pet, or $10,000 for a breeding cat.
“These designer pets can leap over two metres from a standing start and are twice as big as a domestic cat,” Lismore-based Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said. “They are of a size, strength and jumping ability to hunt koalas should they become feral.”
Ms Vass said up to 16 Savannah cats were in quarantine in the US waiting to come to the Gold Coast, with another interested breeder living in Coffs Harbour.
“Imagine the super-hunter resulting from such an animal breeding with a feral cat. Our koalas and other native wildlife would be decimated,” she warned.
America's Big Cat Rescue and their Savannah cat
Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has said he would prohibit the importation of the cats if it was shown there was a risk to the environment.
Tony Peacock, CEO of the Invasive Animal Co-operative Research Centre based at the University of Canberra, said the Government was going to allow the cats to come in as domestic pets until his group wrote to Mr Garrett and 'raised a fuss'.
“We believe trying to breed for fashion reasons to make money and having a groovier-looking cat than the next person is not responsible or smart and should be regulated by government,” he said.
He said his biggest concern was that the Savannah cat would breed with feral cats.
“It is well documented that new genes entering the population can lead to a supercharging of the gene pool,” he said.
Mr Peacock said characteristics that gave the cats a natural advantage, such as size and hunting skills, would be passed on if they escaped into the wild.