Marketing images from an archived version of the now defunct ExoticCubs.com.
  • US authorities have charged a New York man with illegally importing caracals and servals to that country, and selling them as pets.
  • Christopher Casacci apparently charged around R140,000 for a rooikat, and around R110,000 for a serval.
  • Archives show his website, ExoticCubs.com, advertised the cats as excellent pets, affectionate and dog-like – though not suitable for homes with children under the age of 6.
  • Most of the cats are now reportedly dead.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

US federal authorities have charged a New York man with smuggling dozens of servals and caracals into America, and then illegally selling them as pets.

Christopher Casacci operated without a licence, and without showing the humane treatment of the animals he trafficked, the US justice department alleges.

He is also accused of labelling the African cats as domestic breeds such as savannah cats and bengal cats in order to bypass requirements that include limitations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

An archived version of Casacci's website, ExoticCubs.com, shows that we was asking $10,000 – around R140,000 – for a caracal, and the equivalent of around R110,000 each for servals.

He also offered at least one cheetah cub for around R900,000. It is not clear whether any cheetahs were ever sold, and only caracals and servals feature in an indictment. 

Caracals, also known as rooikat, are nocturnal, solitary, and aggressive. Servals are known for their large home ranges, and their ability to escape from enclosures and destroy furniture when tamed.

But American buyers were told they would basically be getting dogs, with servals acting much like German Shepards while caracals would be more like owning a French bulldog or pug.

Caracals "tend to be very affectionate", potential buyers were told. "They will follow you around and love to be held and coddled." And their hissing "may seem aggressive", but is just their version of a meow.

Servals, meanwhile, were described as an "excellent pet"that would play fetch, come when called, and walk on a leash among "many other common dog like personality traits".

The only warning provided was that families with children under six should buy neither caracul nor serval, because it would be "unadvised" for a kid to yank one of their tails.

Animals were not poached from the wild but "farm raised and bottle fed", Casacci's website claimed.

It is not known whether any were imported from South Africa.

The US justice department says most of the cats sold in the case have since died.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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