On March 30th Dr Quinton Martins went to Bushmans Kloof to set up one of our newly developed safe rope netting traps to capture caracal for research purposes. The aim of the project is to look at caracal movement and behaviour in relation to leopards in the same area. How do these smaller predators behave when confronted by an apex predator like the leopard? Furthermore, very little ecological information is known about these highly persecuted felines. Ultimately this work will contribute to finding ways to mitigate farmer-predator conflict.
On the 8th of April the Bushmans Kloof rangers reported a springbok that had been killed by a caracal. Regardt Boshoff (head ranger at Bushmans Kloof) contacted Quinton and it was decided to place the kill in the cage to see if it could be captured. At 21:00 on April 8th, a call was received from Bushmans Kloof, informing us that a caracal was trapped. After gathering all the equipment, Marine Drouilly (our caracal researcher) and Dr Martins arrived at Bushmans Kloof at 23:30. A small male caracal, estimated to be about six months old had been caught. The young cat had fed a lot on the kill and was in very good condition. It was decided not to collar him because he wasn't yet fully grown.
A decision was made to set up the trap again in an attempt to catch the young male’s mother. After taking all of the usual measurements for the young male caracal, Marine and Quinton headed back to Matjiesrivier, arriving back 03:15. At 07:30 the next morning Quinton and Marine were informed that a second caracal had been captured in the cage. The team arrived at Bushmans Kloof at 09:00 to find a female caracal in the cage. It was an older female with a couple of broken teeth from old injuries (perhaps from being kicked in the face by an antelope), and weighed in at 9.7kg, which is average for a female caracal. She was still in good shape and was obviously fit enough to kill an adult female springbok of over 30kg. The cat was fitted with a small GPS collar (175g), which will store 12 GPS fixes a day and release the collar on the 30th of September thanks to its drop-off mechanism. At 10:45 the caracal was released and quickly disappeared into surrounding bushes. The rangers at Bushmans Kloof are going to help with the monitoring of the collar points and the caracal.
The Cape Leopard Trust wishes to thanks the Bushmans Kloof team for their long term project sponsorship and for their assistance with the trapping, monitoring of the cage and their help in the future monitoring of this cat. We also wish to thank Dr Jennie Hewitt (veterinarian) for volunteering her time to help us with the trapping this month and to Mike Snethlage (flexipave.co.za) for building and sponsoring these great cages.
For more information on this capture and collaring, or to read more about the Cape Leopard Trust’s Caracal Project, please check out cederbergcaracalproject.wordpress.com.