Wild cats have reason to celebrate Independence Day following seizure


Our assistance with the confiscation of wild cats demonstrates the dangerous issues of the exotic pet trade

As millions of Americans were celebrating the Fourth of July, a World Animal Protection Program Manager was meeting with rescue staff and local officials to prepare for an early morning seizure of four servals and two caracals, approximately 2-6 months old. Native to Africa, the servals and caracals were being kept by an individual who allegedly intended to sell them illegally as pets.

Also rescued was one savannah cat approximately 3 years of age. On July 5, the wild cats were removed by World Animal Protection and sanctuary staff, provided emergency veterinary care and safely transported to two different sanctuaries in the United States where they will permanently reside.

All the cats were suffering from malnutrition, and one of the baby male serval cats, named "Enzo," needed an emergency subcutaneous fluids to survive.

We have given each of the cats temporary names until they receive new ones at their sanctuary homes.


Our Program Manager Kelly Donithan prepares "Enzo" for life-saving veterinary care.

“We were glad we could do this emergency rescue to bring attention to the plight of exotic pets and their mistreatment in the U.S.  These cats were suffering from severe malnutrition and near death due to the ignorance of the person that was holding them, allegedly intending to profit from their sale,” said Alesia Soltanpanah, Executive Director, World Animal Protection U.S.

“These young wild cats are prolific hunters and can jump up to 20 feet in the air. Removing them from their natural environment and subjecting them to a life as a domestic pet is cruel and dangerous. Their size and natural instincts create a hazardous situation for those who encounter them, especially small animals and children.” 

To ensure the safety of the animals and those involved, the operation was thoroughly planned during the week leading up to the seizure.

We secured veterinary care and provided assistance finding permanent sanctuaries where they will be provided care for remainder of their lives. They will reside in two sanctuaries, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas and Safe Haven Wildlife Sanctuary in Nevada. 

Kelly Donithan, Exotic Pets Campaign Manager for World Animal Protection U.S., was present for the seizure, during the veterinary examination and is accompanying the wild cats to the sanctuaries.

The adult savannah cat seized had been declawed, an inhumane practice which can cause lasting physical problems for a cat.


"Tiffany," a young serval, was one of seven wild cats rescued from a home in upstate New York where the possession of these cats is illegal.

The serval (Leptailurus serval) is native to Africa and can grow up to 40 pounds. Their sensitive hearing allows them to locate small mammals moving through grass. They can leap vertically to catch birds in the air and have an incredible hunting success rate of up to 50 percent.

Servals are primarily solitary, and crepuscular, therefore they hunt at night or in the early morning. This species of wild cat has also been bred with domestic cats to create the hybrid “Savannah” cat. 

The caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat native to Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and India. Males can weigh as much as 40 pounds and females 35 pounds. It is the largest member of Africa’s small cats and preys on a variety of mammals with the most common being rodents, hares, hyraxes and small antelope. They are also known to leap high in the air to grab birds. Like servals they are primarily solitary, except during mating, and are crepuscular in nature.

Savannah cats are a hybrid cat usually bred from wild servals and domestic cats. 

Exotic pet laws and regulations vary by state, however both servals and caracals are illegal to possess and sell as pets in New York.  The possession, sale, barter, transfer, exchange, and import of wild animals as pets is strictly prohibited in New York under NYS Environmental Conservation Law 11-0512.

Each year, millions of animals are poached or farmed and sold into the exotic pet trade. Whether the trade is legal or illegal, these animals suffer terribly. A life in captivity limits an exotic pet’s natural behaviour and places both their physiological and psychological well-being at risk. They are often deprived of adequate shelter, food, room to roam and proper regulation of their body temperature.

We believe that wild animals belong in the wild as this is the only place they can lead full lives free from the deprivation and suffering inherent with captivity.

Please donate today to ensure that we can carry out this rescue and continue to work on ending the exotic pet trade. Together, we can stop the abuse of these beautiful wild animals and ensure that others live out their lives in the wild where they belong.


Top image: wild caracal cats like "Kiki" are native to Africa, and are known for their distinctive ears and ability to leap high in the air to grab birds.

“We were glad we could do this emergency rescue to bring attention to the plight of exotic pets and their mistreatment in the U.S.

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