Caracal-Felis caracal

Kruger National Park | July 2019

Caracals are also known as rooikat (red cat) or African / Persian lynx (although they have tufted ears like a lynx they fall into a different genus). The name caracal is supposedly derived from the Turkic words “kara” and “kulak”, which respectively mean “black” and “ear” (referring to their black ear-tufts).

They are fairly small (weighing up to 18 kg / 39 lbs and with a shoulder height of up to 50 cm / 20 inches), long-legged, bob-tailed, beautiful cats that are generally found in the more open savanna regions of Africa, although they can also be found in a variety of habitats, such as fairly dense bush, fynbos, rocky outcrops, semi-arid areas and grassland. They are not often seen and are highly elusive and secretive in nature.

Caracals feed predominantly on a wide variety of small mammals, including rodents, hares, dassies and even small antelope up to the size of impalas. They can be considered to be “problem animals” in farming areas where they are known to kill sheep, goats and young calves. They are strong cats that climb trees to hunt birds and monkeys, and have even been seen to cache carcasses in trees, on occasion, in much the same manner as leopards. They are well-known to launch themselves into the air in order to swat down birds that are taking off.

The best time to view this animal is as it gets dark as it is considered to be crepuscular (mainly active at dawn and dusk). This month we had four different sighting of caracals in our concession of Singita Lebombo. On one occasion this month we were lucky enough to witness a caracal stalking impalas and eventually killing a big male impala. It is very small cat but the amount of power it has is amazing compared to its body size. We hope to see more of these stunning cats in the concession in the future, as the place is perfect for the species to breed.