Walker saves snared caracal

2008-05-18 00:00

Photographer Mark Wing was instrumental in saving a caracal from a slow and painful death after his dogs alerted him to the presence of the angry, hissing wildcat, which had been caught in a snare in a forest in Prestbury on Saturday.

"I was astounded and chuffed to see a caracal in the wild so close to the houses in Prestbury, but sorry and angry that it had been snared," said Wing.

En route to get help, Wing’s dog Tyler was also hooked in a snare, but managed to break it and get free.

SPCA inspector Daniel Stewart used a pole with a noose attached to secure the caracal while he injected it with a sedative. He was then able to remove the snare.

Stewart said the animal was treated with antiobiotics for a superficial cut on its belly caused by the snares, and released the same afternoon into the Dumamanzi private game reserve in Eston.

Stewart said the SPCA gets calls from time to time to assist with relocating problem caracals preying on chickens or other small livestock.

Wing told The Witness he is a member of the Lynwood Club Walkers. On Saturday morning, about 10 members of the club were walking in the plantation above Linpark school. Wing was accompanied by his two dogs, Tyler and Tosca.

"I turned on to a road and the dogs were in front of me. Suddenly, they stopped and looked to the left into the bush. They moved into the bush and then suddenly jumped back as if really frightened.

"I walked in and suddenly heard this loud hissing and there it was — this beautiful caracal caught by two snares around its belly."

Wing said the snares consisted of stainless steel cable wire tied to a stake in the ground. The snares were baited with a dead francolin, a large ground bird.

"Clearly, whoever set this snare was not trying to trap antelope. They were after predators, probably for muti purposes," said Wing.

Wing called the SPCA and then ran down the hill to fetch his car. En route, he heard Tyler yelping and then saw the dog emerge from the bush with another broken snare hanging from her neck.

Wing said this is an indication that poachers are active in the area.

According to the website South Africa Explored, the caracal — which resembles a cross between a leopard and a lynx, and weighs between 11 and 15 kg on average — is an endangered species and humans are its greatest threat.

It feeds on rodents, small antelope, hares and birds and sometimes eats sheep and goats. The latter are the reason that caracal are often hunted by farmers. They are also killed for their skin and meat by rural people.

Ezemvelo Wildlife spokesman Jeff Gaisford said caracal are fairly uncommon. "Like leopards they move where they like. Most of the time they are there but people don’t even know it."

He said the setting of snares is totally illegal, and people involved in outdoor activities like the Lynwood Club Walkers perform a valuable service to conservation by removing snares from natural areas.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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