Diane Peterson, U.S. Attorney?s Office: 503-727-l066
Joan Jewett, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 503-231-6211
Ocelots are a rare leopard species protected under the Federal
Endangered Species Act
Deborah Walding, of Beaverton, Oregon, was sentenced today to 10 months detention for illegally offering to sell an endangered ocelot, a rare leopard species protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, l6 USC l538(a)(1)(F), with a maximum sentence of l2 months.
Walding was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman, who ordered her to serve 30 days of her sentence in a federal prison and 9 months under house detention, to be followed by one year of supervised release. He also ordered her to make a $25,000 community service payment to the World Wildlife Fund North American Endangered Species Trafficking Program.
Judge Mosman said he hoped the sentence would send a deterrent message to others who illegally sell exotic cats and other rare wildlife. He also stated, "These are serious offenses that lead to the decline of species in the wild."
Walding pleaded guilty in June 2005 to a misdemeanor information charge in U.S. District Court in Portland. The charge claims that between February 2002 and April l2, 2002, she knowingly and unlawfully sold and offered for sale in interstate commerce, without a permit, an endangered species, namely, an ocelot named "Little B." As part of the plea agreement, she was not charged with offenses stemming from the sale and offer of sale of three other ocelots. Three of the ocelots are in an exotic cat refuge in Indiana; one of them died.
Although Walding was convicted of a misdemeanor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton said he recommended a prison term for Walding because she breached her plea agreement with the government by falsifying evidence to implicate an informant who had contributed to her arrest.
As few as 70 ocelots are known to remain in the wild in the United States, most of them on the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in south Texas. The large, nocturnal cats are endangered throughout their range in Texas and Central and South America, mostly due to habitat destruction and illegal trafficking in pelts. They are protected by national and international laws.
Paul Chang, chief law enforcement agent in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service?s Pacific Region, stated, "The unlawful sale and trafficking of ocelots creates a black market for them and other exotic cats. The trade in exotic cats and other wildlife is a booming business in the United States and worldwide is second only to the trade in illicit drugs."
This case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton prosecuted the case.