Few people know that wild cats called caracals (a.k.a rooikat or African lynx) still live in Cape Town. These beautiful, mainly nocturnal predators live around the famous Table Mountain and survive on wild prey like rodents and birds. They are not a threat to people, but they are vulnerable as never before.
Leopards are now locally extinct on the Cape Peninsula, making caracals the largest remaining predator, and only about 60 of them are estimated to still roam the mountains. However, people may be killing them without even knowing it. Caracals on the Cape Peninsula die from exposure to poisons and diseases. We are trying to help save them.
Many of these shy cats die from exposure to diseases carried by domestic animals, such as toxoplasmosis, parvovirus and feline AIDS. They are also being killed by poisons that urban residents put down for rodents and other small pests.
The Urban Caracal Project, based at the University of Cape Town, conducts research on these urban caracals that live close to people. The organisation is collaring and collecting data about caracals to better understand how these wild cats are adapting to rapid urbanisation and human encroachment on their natural territories.
It is vital that we learn, for example, just how badly exposure to poison affects caracal health, and how that might affect the remaining caracal population in the future.
We need funds to perform genetic analysis and to test for poison exposure. This will help scientists to better understand what is killing the caracals of Table Mountain, how genetic inbreeding is affecting the population, and how we can stop this tragedy. NFA cares about all animals – domestic and wild, rural and urban – and is very concerned that caracals might completely disappear from the Cape Peninsula. We have promised to help raise the funds the project needs to send samples for testing and raise awareness about caracal conservation.
David Barritt, executive director of Network for Animals, said: “It is fascinating and rather comforting that these marvellous creatures manage to survive on the fringe of a city of five million people with dense urban areas.
“If we can manage the ensure that caracals survive so close to Cape Town, it gives hope that our children and grandchildren will one day see them living happily on Table Mountain.”