I take the question to mean: is it legal to own a caracal privately in Australia as opposed to a zoo owning a caracal? I am answering the question on the basis of a private individual wishing to keep a caracal as a pet in Australia. And in answering this question I am also answering questions about the keeping of any exotic pet in Australia. The general gist of the answer is that Australia rejects the keeping of exotic pets which they describe as pests when non-native. The Australian jurisdictions are very sensitive about the keeping of alien species and the default stance is to prohibit them.
I think it is more fruitful to answer the question on a state-by-state basis because there is a lack of clarity when searching for the answer federally. This surprises me to be honest. But the caracal is a medium-sized wild cat species. They can be quite domesticated and you will see them as pets in some homes other than in Australia. They will be regarded as an exotic pet in Australia.
I will answer the question state-by-state as follows.
New South Wales
They have a very short page on this which isn’t that clear to be honest but they do state that domestic cats are allowed as pets which is to be expected and other domesticated animals such as dogs and aquarium fish. You can also keep some captive-bred reptiles and frogs acquired from a licensed breeder or society. However, judging by the fact that caracals are distinctly omitted from this very short and vague list, I have to conclude that caracals are not permitted as pets in the state of New South Wales in Australia.
Queensland have a page on “Prohibited invasive animals”. They state that “all introduced mammal species are prohibited as pets unless listed as exceptions”. The cat is an introduced species i.e. non-native. It is an exception and therefore the cat can be a pet in Australia. However, the Queensland administration are referring to domestic cats although they do not state that. This is a weakness in their document. They do state once again by omission that “all other exotic mammals are prohibited” other than domestic cats and the other domestic animals stated in their list.
Once again it is very hard to find clear guidance to answer the question. However, it’s clear that a caracal would be regarded as a “pest animal” in the state of Victoria, Australia. You can’t keep pest animals as pets unless they are rabbits (up to 30 without a permit) or dingoes with a permit. “All other pest animals cannot be kept as pets”. Therefore, caracals cannot be kept as pets in this state.
The information this comes from a Victoria government document called “Landcare Notes-frequently asked questions for exotic pest animals by Ross Williamson (Melbourne) published in December 2000.
Regrettably, there is very little clarity or precision in the information provided by the government of South Australia on the keeping of a caracal. They are not mentioned but it is quite clear that as a private individual you can’t keep a caracal as a pet in this state but you may be able to successfully apply to keep a “declared animal” in an approved facility under the Landscape South Australia Act.
They consider the caracal or any other wild cat species as an animal of “high-risk potential”. You have to apply for a permit and you have to have facilities “that demonstrate extremely high standards of physical security, staff expertise, housing and animal management and/or provide a benefit to the community through education”. This, then, has nothing to do with keeping a caracal as a pet. You can’t apply for a permit to keep a caracal as a pet in South Australia. This information comes from an online document entitled “Guidelines and application form for new applicants to keep declared animals in approved facilities under the Landscape South Australia Act in South Australia”.
As for the other jurisdictions of Australia, the laws governing exotic pets in Western Australia concern the importation and the keeping of these animals. Caracals are non-native species and they going to be imported at some stage. Per the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development of the Government of Western Australia, the caracal is regarded as an exotic or alien species. It will be declared a pest under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007. They have a list of animals which they categorise into four sections: permitted, prohibited, declared pest, unlisted organism. They have three control categories: exclusion, eradication and management. As for keeping categories there are three: prohibited, restricted and exempt. This list is called the Western Australian Organism List.
For the first time in my research, I have clarity. The caracal is listed as a declared pest and it is prohibited. The full classification is as follows: Declared Pest, Prohibited – s12 (C1 Prohibited). Therefore, the caracal is illegal as a pet in Western Australia.
Northern Territory – NT
You can apply for a permit to keep either protected or prohibited wildlife in captivity in the Northern Territory. Prohibited wildlife will include the caracal which is non-native to Northern Territory and Australia as a whole. You will have to purchase the animal lawfully and, in this case, probably imported into the country which itself will probably stop you in your tracks at the outset. You can find an application form for a permit online. It is called “Application for a Permit [to] Protected Wildlife or Keep Prohibited Entrants”. I would suspect that you would fail in your application unless you had some very good reasons to keep the caracal as a pet. And you have to have good facilities and management et cetera. Although NT seem to be a little more relaxed about keeping exotic pets than the other states of Australia.
Once again researching this on the Internet is almost impossible which implies that there is very little information about how the Tasmanian government legislates for keeping exotic pets like caracals. The requirements for keeping wildlife in Tasmania are set out in the Nature Conservation Act 2002. The rules are intricate and there is no doubt that you should contact the Wildlife Management Branch and Bio Security Tasmania to discuss your requirements. You will be requesting the keeping of a caracal as a pet! You will probably fail ?.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
The caracal would be listed as a non-exempt animal and a Nature Conservation licence is required to import and keep a caracal which is an exotic animal. It is also a non-native animal to Australia. I would advise that you contact the ACT Government Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate-Environment for details about how to obtain a licence. Once again, the caracal is well out of the ambit of the ordinary pet and you will have to go through a lot of hoops and hurdles if you are to succeed in obtaining a licence in ACT to keep a caracal.
Two caracals in Australia
In 2017 it was reported by The Daily Telegraph in Australia that there were two caracals on that continent and they were both imported into Australia to improve the species’ conservation in South Africa. This was a special project and nothing to do with pets. The story indicated the heavy restrictions on keeping a caracal in Australia. They just don’t want them there and certainly not as pets. Australia is highly concerned about exotic cats like the caracal escaping from captivity and then procreating in the wild and causing mass destruction of small native mammals which would be prey animals for a caracal.
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