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18 June 2008 - Supercat import disastrous for native species      

Supercat import disastrous for native species

Sydney, 18 June 2008                        

With many of Australia’s native species already under threat from feral cats, Humane Society International (HSI) is bewildered as to how the federal government could even consider allowing the import of a hybrid “supercat” to be sold as pets in Australia. A hybrid of African Serval and domestic cats, as many as 16 of these savannah cats are currently awaiting clearance in US quarantine.

“Australia has an alarming precedent of introduced animals gone wrong,” said Danielle Annese, HSI Program Manager. “Australia’s native wildlife is already under threat from feral cats and a suite of other pet animals that have escaped and established as invasive species in the environment. With more than 100 threatened species being impacted by feral cats alone, the release of a hybrid cat that is double the size of a domestic cat, and is therefore a much more effective predator, would have untold and potentially irreversible impacts on these and additional species, such as koalas and possums, that have so far largely managed to ward off feral cats.”

The introduction of such species is made possible by a quarantine law loophole that allows the import of wild-pet hybrids in the absence of any rigorous pest risk assessment. Protecting our native species by closing that loophole requires significant changes to the regulations of the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, changes that Environment Minister Peter Garrett must make as a matter of priority if he is serious about the long-term survival of Australia’s native species.

“We would prefer to see the EPBC Act amended to give the Vertebrate Pests Committee (VPC) that advises on policy and planning solutions to pest animal issues, a veto provision on proposed imports of new or hybrid species,” said Ms Annese. “At the very least, it is essential that wild-domestic hybrids are subject to mandatory pest risk assessment, and the Minister’s consideration of advice from the VPC about whether to allow the import of a new hybrid species. Without these provisions, there is no way to ascertain, or guard against, the threat from the potential spread of a new species.”

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