While Jo’burg has tigers, Cape Town has caracals, and we love our rooikatte. As the last remaining “big” predator cats left on the Peninsula, we are excited every time we get to release one back into the wild after a short stay in our wildlife care facility.
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA Wildlife Department receives an average of seven calls a year about caracal cats needing our help.
Most often these are cats that have been struck by speeding cars while crossing roads, cats caught in poachers’ snares or cats suffering from some sort of sickness.
When we received a call about a caracal wounded in a fight with a dog in the upmarket suburb of Camps Bay, we marked it down as a first. Caracals, despite their reputation as killers par excellence, are extremely shy creatures and will rather avoid a confrontation (even if it is only with a domestic dog), than risk taking a bite.
This particular animal was picked up lying on the roadside by a brave and caring member of public (note to reader: caracals should never be handled, even if they appear docile. Rather call your nearest SPCA for help), and taken to a private vet who stabilised her and gave us a call.
The adult female cat had sustained a nasty bite wound to her throat (that fortunately didn’t hit any of the major arteries), deep enough to expose part of her jaw bone! She had a bite wound on her right front foreleg and some bruising around her shoulder. Our veterinary surgeon patched her up, and prescribed some pain meds, food and cage rest.
Our Wildlife Department team then took over, providing for her daily needs; ensuring that she had the right nutrition and enough fluids to help speed her recovery. As soon as she was looking fit, we contacted our friends at SANParks and were granted permission for a release near Kasteelpoort (part of her mountain home range).
As the late summer sun climbed above the distant Helderberg peaks to greet us, our Wildlife team, assisted by the Urban Caracal Project and a SANParks ranger placed her carry box in a small clearing in the fynbos, carefully unlatched the cage door and as quick as a greased lightning bolt, the caracal from Camps Bay was out the door and into freedom, the only sign of her was a rustling in the bushes as she went.
High-fives all round for a job well done; scoring a point for Team Caracal.
Mountain users are reminded to keep their dogs on leash when hiking, for both their safety and the protection of our wildlife.
Historical records covering Table Mountain and the surrounding suburbs (Newlands, Rondebosch, the City Bowl and the area extending north to the mouth of the Black River) reveal that there was once a wealth of wildlife in our City! Big game like eland, red hartebeest, grey rhebok, common duiker and chacma baboons were plentiful, which also means there were some predators of note: lion, leopard, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal and of course caracal, all roamed our “suburbs”.
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