African wildcat Zena seized from family home in Roehampton

Cheetah Image copyright Wandsworth Police
Image caption The cheetah-like animal was seized from her family home in Roehampton

An African wildcat who can leap 12ft and run 55mph has been seized from her family home in south-west London.

Police captured the serval, known as Zena, from a property in Roehampton after she was spotted by a neighbour.

Zena will now be taken to a wildlife facility but her owner, James Brown, 35, has started a petition to have the "harmless" pet returned to his family.

Wild animal owners must apply for a licence to keep their pets in England.

Image copyright James Brown
Image caption Zena's owner said she was "harmless"

Mr Brown told BBC Radio London he was in the process of putting a licence application together but "they just took her" before he could complete it.

He said he got the cheetah-like animal off someone who realised the implications of having a serval in their home and wanted to get rid of it.

Police said Zena was in a holding centre for medical examination before she started a "new life" in a specialist facility in the UK.

Striking wildcats:

Servals are medium-sized carnivorous wildcats commonly found on savannas and native to more than 35 countries in Africa.

Weighing anywhere between 9-18kg and of an average length of 60cm, they can leap up to 1.5m high in the air.

They black-spotted animals catch most of their prey, which range from birds to frogs and insects, by leaping into the air and pouncing.

Servals can live up to 23 years.

Image copyright James Brown
Image caption Zena would sit on the kitchen table as Mr Brown's six-year-old daughter had her breakfast

'No harm'

Pictures posted on Facebook by Mr Brown show Zena taking a bath and having breakfast with his six-year-old daughter Ella.

"I had Zena since she was a baby, she has never been aggressive, never hurt my child, never hurt anybody.

"She is absolutely no different to a normal domestic cat," Mr Brown said.

Mr Brown said Zena would lose out on the affection of his family if she was taken away.

"She will never be loved again," he said. "She will go to an enclosure where she will sit there and be watched. In my house she was played with, fed, cared for and loved. She had the full run of my whole house."

RSPCA said in a statement "servals are unsuitable to be kept as pets because their needs are too complex to be met in a household environment.

"The Society believes that animals should only be kept in captivity if good welfare can be assured and this can be very challenging."

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