“From what we can tell the population of caracals seems relatively healthy in and around Cape Town.”
Cape Town, South Africa (21 November 2020) – Caracals, like many other medium-sized wild cats, are very elusive animals but are often spotted in and around Cape Town!
And the Urban Caracal Project are doing everything in their power to spread awareness about Cape Town’s local wild cat population and how we can protect them!
Urban Caracal Project
Protecting biodiversity through research and conservation. The Urban Caracal Project is a project of the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild) at the University of Cape Town. Key collaborators also include South Africa National Parks, Universities of California (Santa Cruz and Los Angeles), the City of Cape Town, and private landowners in Cape Town.
And now the Urban Caracal Project has confirmed that Caracals have been spotted and are definitely using the Noordhoek wetlands and Dassenberg Koppie.
Wetlands are among the most threatened ecosystems both globally and nationally, and the Noordhoek wetlands are classified by the City of Cape Town itself as an aquatic “Critical Ecological Support Area” in a biodiversity conservation plan.
“When we were collaring and monitoring caracals between 2015 and 2017, the Noordhoek wetlands was a hotspot of activity. At the time, we knew of at least seven different individuals using that area. Those were the ones we had collared, but it’s very likely that there were more,” Dr Laurel Serieys, Coordinator of the Urban Caracal Project, explains.
Sadly Caracals have fallen victim to poachers.
“Currently we don’t have any collared animals in the area as our fieldwork for the project ended in early 2017. All collars fell off each animal after their period of data collection, as they were scheduled to do so. We’re not sure of the fates of all the caracals that were collared. We do know that one adult male was chased and killed by a poacher’s hunting dogs near Imhoff’s Gift, we found his collar cut off of him,” she says.
“In another instance, SANParks Honorary Rangers found a previously collared adult female (Spitfire) caught in a snare in the wetlands, but she was safely released.”
Serieys says they have also found that caracals are actually attracted to fire and recently burned areas.
“Fires unearth seeds that small mammals feed on once the fire has passed. For the first couple weeks after a fire there will also be green shoots that the grysbok, a favourite caracal prey, like to feed on, she says. “Poachers often light fires to flesh out wildlife from the bush, but this actually attracts caracals. For all poached wildlife, the poachers may eat them or sell their pelts and body parts for mooti.”
Remove snares and report the location.
Serieys says that if you find a snare, remove it and report the location to us as exactly as possible by dropping a pin and Whatsapp’ing it to 079 837 8814.
“We connect with SANParks, and trained rangers perform snare-sweeps in the areas where snares are found. It is an operation that also involves law enforcement who collect evidence. The poachers and their snares are moving targets, as SANParks remove snares from an area, the poachers move to the next area, but we do find that poachers visit the same areas over and over again, like the wetlands and Dassenberg.”
About the planned Houmoed Road Extension that will cut through the wetlands, Dr Serieys says that any time you remove habitat, it is going to have a negative impact on the wildlife, so of course, as a caracal biologist, she is not in favour of putting the road there.
“However, caracals will use what habitat remains, what choice do they have?”
Should you see a caracal – take a photo and report the location!
“It is a wonderful experience to see a caracal. If you do see one, appreciate it, keep your distance – 50 to 100m away – and do not disturb,” she says.
If you are able to take a photo, send it to email@example.com and fill out the reporting form on the Urban Caracal website.
It is also important if you find a dead animal as it helps the project understand the threats to these animals’ survival http://www.urbancaracal.org/report-sightings-roadkill.
On a positive note, Dr Serieys says, “From what we can tell the population of caracals seems relatively healthy in and around Cape Town.”
Brad Bing, Chairperson of the Noordhoek Ratepayers Association (NRPA), says, “Caracals are a wonderful part of the biodiversity of the area that the NRPA is helping local conservation organisations to conserve. TreadLightly is one of our six 2030 vision goals, and it means living in a manner that allows animals to flourish in the wild habitats around us.”
For more information about the Noordhoek Ratepayers Association, please visit nrpa.org.za or on Facebook on @nrpapage.