Wildlife officers seize exotic pet from Boca Raton home
By ELIOT KLEINBERG
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Aura Redclift has a problem with her cat.
It escaped at least once. And after neighbors complained, wildlife officers seized it last month and took it to a sanctuary in Jupiter.
Dimensions: Two to three feet long, 1-1/2 feet to 2 feet tall at shoulders, Tail length 10 to 1 inches. Weigh 18 to 40 pounds.
Life Span: Up to 20 years in captivity.
Body clock: Peak activity between ten and eleven at night and four and five in the morning.
Prowess: Can jump as high as 10 feet in the air to catch birds and pounce on prey three to 12 feet away.
Natural Range: Scattered over the African continent.
Natural Habitat: Near water, in savannas, reed-beds, open woodlands, bushlands and forests, grasslands, marsh, sub-alpine and bamboo forests.
Today, a Palm Beach Circuit judge told Redclift, 34, that if, in the next two months, she paid outstanding room and board – already at close to $1,000 – and got the right permit, the state would drop the charge of having Nambi without a permit.
That’s because the 2-year-old isn’t just any cat. She’s a serval, an African cat popular as an exotic pet. And she weighs a very un-Pookie-like 30 pounds.
That’s 30 pounds of what one exotic pets web page calls “domestic cats on speed.”
According to a report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, a neighbor called the agency Sept. 3 to say the owner of a home in the 5100 block of Deerhurst Crescent Circle in Boca Raton had a wild cat for a pet.
The neighbor, who e-mailed photographs of Nambi to the agency, said a person in the home had been hurt by the cat and he felt it was dangerous, the report said.
Officers went to the home on Sept. 23 and saw the large cat peeking out the blinds.
Redclift’s boyfriend, Brandon Medina, 27, answered the door with a cat he told officers he’d bought at an exotic pet store in Deerfield Beach. He said it was a Bengal, and required no permit.
When the officers said they wanted to see the other cat, the one in the back, the tenant said they were trespassing and asked them to leave.
Medina then got Redclift on the phone. She called Nambi a “Savannah cat” and said she’d brought it from North Carolina, where she owns a home.
She said she had contacted the Florida agency and “there were no issues,” the report said.
Redclift offered to fly in the next day with the paperwork for Nambi.
On Sept. 24, the report said, the officers returned, along with David Hitzig, director of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary in Jupiter, to help identify Nambi.
She admitted it had escaped once from the home in Boca Raton and offered to take it back to North Carolina.
The officers then decided to seize Nambi and place it with Busch Wildlife.
Over the next few days, Hitzig told the officers, Redclift called several times, threatening to come for the cat with police in tow. Hitzig filed a trespass warning and asked the officers to come get the cat, the report said.
On Oct. 3, Redclift contacted the officers to say she’d found an animal dealer in the Miami area to take the cat.
“We’re assisting the state in giving the cat a safe refuge while the wildlife commission and the pet owner work out whatever details need to be worked out,” Hitzig said today.
“Although these are gorgeous animals and I understand what lures people to want them, it’s a wild animal and not something that should be kept as a household pet,” he said. “It could be potentially dangerous.”