Serval cats kept illegally in north Norfolk could have posed 'significant risk' to the public

Serval cat - PA
Drone image - Norfolk Rural Crime
The pair of serval cats were found in an enclosure on land in north Norfolk. Credit: PA/Norfolk Rural Crime

Two big cats being kept illegally in a country village were discovered after police sent up a drone to take heat-cam images.

The pair of serval cats were being kept in an inappropriate enclosure and posed a "significant risk" to the surrounding community, said the local council.

The animals, which are capable of jumping two metres in height and reaching a top speed of 50mph (80kph), feed on prey such as young antelope when in the wild. They are native to the African grasslands south of the Sahara Desert and are classified as dangerous animals in the UK.

The male and female were being kept on land in Colby in north Norfolk by Warren Polydoru, who appeared at Norwich Magistrates' Court last week to admit a charge of keeping dangerous animals without a licence.

The 57-year-old of Station Road, Cromer, was fined £40 and ordered to pay costs and compensation totalling £674.

North Norfolk District Council intervened after complaints were made last September.

Both animals were now being cared for at zoos with the facilities and expertise to care for big cats properly, said the council.

James Windsor, a council environmental health officer, said: “This was an extremely serious case for the council - the discovery of two serval [cats] being kept in the district in accommodation which was not built in such a way that would have prevented their escape and put the local community at significant risk.

“Effectively recapturing an escaped animal would have presented significant challenges.

“We are aware that there has been a general trend in the UK for people to privately keep servals as they are used to breed Savannah cats which is a highly lucrative business.

“The council will not hesitate to take robust action where dangerous wild animals are being kept without a licence and in a manner which endangers public safety. 

“We are extremely grateful for the assistance of Norfolk Police’s Rural Crime Team in both the detection of this crime and in bringing the matter to a satisfactory conclusion.”

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