Where caracals roam

2020-02-04 06:00
Caracals can be spotted across Cape Town – in the mountains and throughout SanParks’s protected areas.

Caracals can be spotted across Cape Town – in the mountains and throughout SanParks’s protected areas. (Urban Caracal Project)

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You may not have heard of the Urban Caracal Project but, with the increase in property developments, you are more likely to see one of the big cats on your next outing.

Dr Laurel Serieys, the project coordinator, is spearheading the research on caracals in Cape Town’s urban areas.

Serieys, who is also a wildlife biologist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cape Town (UCT), established the project in 2014 to discover how urbanisation affects the movements, habits and behaviour of the animals; explore the threats to the species and to find baseline information of how many of the species are found in the Cape Peninsula.

“Urbanisation is ever-expanding globally. More and more animal populations will be based in, or very close to, a city. Nearly half of the world’s human population lives in cities. Trying to conserve the wildlife that lives in and near cities is not only increasingly important for biodiversity conservation globally as cities grow but those wildlife populations are important to help us (humans) form bonds with nature,” she told People’s Post.

To date – with the support of UCT, Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), SanParks, the Universities of California (Santa Cruz and Los Angeles), the City of Cape Town and private landowners in Cape Town – Serieys and her team have managed to tag some of the local caracals and monitor them.

“It is difficult to estimate how many there are because you don’t often get to see the caracals. But my gut feeling is that there may be 50 caracals across the entirety of the Cape Peninsula. 

“We’ve seen one young male caracal move from Rhodes Memorial to Cape Point in a matter of weeks. One of our adult males, Titan, uses all of the South Peninsula! From Kommetjie to Cape Point.”

With rapid development across Cape Town, the roaming space for these animals has become less and they are more exposed to the threats of crossing roads and becoming roadkill, as well as consuming pesticides.

Roadkill has been found on Ou Kaapse Weg, Orpen Road in Tokai and even on Kloof Nek Road in the city.

However, Serieys says the cats tend to be shy and don’t often travel to where people are.

“Overall, there are a lot of people hiking and using trails in Table Mountain National Park every day but most people never see caracals even though they are in our mountains.” 

Surprisingly, they have been spotted in the Cape Flats.

“Some people see them in Tokai and Constantia too. They are found throughout any protected areas in Table Mountain National Park,” she says.

She explains they will usually not attack a person. They would rather hiss. If you do see one, she adds, appreciate the sighting. 

“Even as a caracal biologist, I have rarely seen one when I’ve been out hiking and I’m always jealous of people who do get to see them!” 

  • To report roadkill, call 079 837 8814; or donate to the cause at www.urbancaracal.org/support.
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