NY man sentenced to prison for trafficking wild African cats

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WETM) – A man from Amherst, New York was sentenced to 18 months in prison for trafficking exotic African cats.

The U.S. attorney says Christopher Casacci imported and sold dozens of these native African cats called Caracals on his website “ExoticCubs.com.” He advertised them as “house pets” and sold them for up to $10,000 each.

“Selling wild animals as pets not only breaks the law but also endangers local communities and environments,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD).

Casacci claimed that he was operating a big cat rescue organization to avoid New York prohibitions of commercial possession and sale. He also falsified transport documents to hide the true species of the cats, instead of calling the animals domestic crossbreeds, such as Bengal cats or Savannah cats.

“Wildlife trafficking is decimating the world’s natural resources,” said Assistant Director Edward Grace of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Office of Law Enforcement.

Caracals, also known as the “desert lynx,” are wild cats native to Africa that grow to approximately 45 pounds. The caracals were all sold while they were still kittens and many of them died while in his care or in the days after he sold them. Many live kittens were seized from Casacci during the investigation are now permanently residing within accredited animal sanctuaries.

These species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and their commercial possession and sale are restricted under New York state law.

Casacci was previously indicted for his actions in January of 2020

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