Caracal behind penguin killings

The cat’s out the bag as to who is killing Simon’s Town penguins.

Following a spate of penguin fatalities over the last two weeks, the City of Cape Town and Table Mountain National Park identified a large caracal as the perpetrator.

The City of Cape Town has since successfully captured and relocated the caracal that was responsible for the recent spate killings.

Initial evidence suggested the presence of one or more caracals in the area and as such, the City installed trap cameras to confirm this assumption. Images of the predator were finally captured on camera, confirming the presence of a large caracal.

Natural predation by an indigenous animal is considered part of the natural patterns and processes in the ecosystem and the prey is not favoured above the predator, explains Mayco member for energy, environmental and spatial planning, Johan van der Merwe.

“However, when a particular predator starts changing normal predation behaviour and kills multiple individuals – that is more than what is required for feeding – there is cause for concern. More so if the prey species is listed as endangered and the number and frequency of the kills becomes unsustainable in the population. The management authorities are then placed in a difficult position and need to consider the most viable and best option for the ecosystem as a whole.”

The female caracal was successfully trapped on Friday 8 July, Van der Merwe says. The animal was tranquilised in the cage and examined by a local veterinarian. It was found to be a healthy adult female and the veterinarian confirmed that the caracal was not lactating. The cat, which was fitted with a tracking collar, was transported back to her original roaming territory in the Table Mountain National Park and released. It has been confirmed that the cat has settled down and its movements will be monitored.

V To learn more about caracals and their behaviour on the peninsula, visit www.urbanCaracal.org

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