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The missing “lynx”

47-caracal

There have been increasing reports of lynx being spotted on Robberg Nature Reserve, however, these animals are not lynx but caracals Caracal caracal. Caracals are a robustly built cat characterized by their long pointed ears with black tufted tips. It is these tufted ears which are a shared characteristic between species of the genus Caracal and species of the genus Lynx, potentially accounting for the misidentification of the caracal on Robberg Nature Reserve. Also known as the red cat, or rooikat, caracals have a short yet thick coat which can vary from pale reddish-fawn to brick-red, while the underparts are off-white and may have faint blotching. Other features include hindquarters slightly taller than their shoulders, a short tail, and prominent black and white markings on the face. An adult caracal has a total length of 70-110 cm including a tail of only 18-34 cm in length, and stands 40-45 cm tall at the shoulder. Caracals are found through much of Africa, Central Asia, and south-west Asia into India occupying semi-desert habitats to savanna woodland, and hilly country to coastal forests. Caracal have a varied diet including small- to medium-sized mammals such as mice and antelope, reptiles such as snakes and lizards, birds, invertebrates, fish, and some plant matter. Caracals hunt by stalking their prey as close as possible and then pounces on its prize, or relies on a short, fast run to capture its prey. They are particularly adept at catching birds with a spectacular leap! Caracals can breed throughout the year, though generally there is a summer peak in breeding. There can be up to 3 kittens in litter born after a gestation period of 79 days. What is very exciting is there were reports of kittens on Robberg Nature Reserve earlier this year! Unfortunately, due to their predation of sheep and goats caracals are persecuted in many areas of Africa. Despite this, the caracal is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN.

Written by: Minke Witteveen

For further reading:

  • Avgan, B., Henschel, P. and Ghoddousi, A. 2016. Caracal caracal. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. Accessed: 2016-09-26. URL: http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/3847/0.
  • Stuart, C. and Stuart, T. 2007. Field Guide to Mammals of southern Africa. Struik Nature: Cape Town. Pp. 170.

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