Usually when coming across one of the smaller cat species like Serval, Caracal, or African Wild Cat, only a fleeting glimpse occurs where you then have to point, exclaim to your guests, Wow! Look at that! And then use pictures to tell interesting facts. Last night, however, we received beautiful visual of both Caracal and African Wild Cat. Luckily, the caracal sighting was during the afternoon with the “magic hour” of sunlight highlighting its reddish coat and black tipped ears. Guinea fowl chattered alarmed at the cat’s presence, while I excitedly explained to my guests how the caracal uses its large ears and jumping capability to hunt birds and smaller mammals. Fifteen minutes later we carried on to see what else the bush held in store for us.
Later in the evening after a stunning sighting of our four sub-adult female lions lying contentedly on a river bank and then slowly meandering off into thick shrub, and a fantastic viewing of a very full and sleepy male leopard in a tree, we came across an African Wild Cat pouncing, and then consuming a field mouse half a meter from the vehicle. It then hung around us, hunting some more, for a good ten minutes or so.
African Wild Cats are one of the many endangered animals you will find in our bushveld. This is not due to habitat loss or over hunting as it is with most species, but mostly to the fact that all domesticated cats come from the African Wild Cat. This, the mother of all cats, is still extremely similar in genetics to house cats and with encroaching human contact, is being out-breed by subsequent unions with our pets. In looks, it is most similar to a tabby cat, but is best identified by the red behind the ears and the length of the legs. Interestingly enough, Egyptian pharaohs used to keep these cats as pets.
What a fantastic and exciting game drive for guests and ranger!
Our female lion is still doing well with her days old cubs and the weather is keeping warm and promising. Summer is slowly on its way!
Noelle DiLorenzo – Kapama River lodge ranger