Caracal (felis caracal)
The caracal is reddish light brown in colour, with faint spots of orange, a cream coloured underbelly and tufted black ears. All-black or Melanistic caracals have been reported. With its long legs, it moves gracefully and is a skilled climber, regularly taking shelter in trees. Males measure about 117 cm in length with a mass of 15 kg, and females 109 cm weighing 11 kg. The caracal with its striking face markings, is often considered to be one of the most beautiful cats in Africa.
The caracal is a strong and fast animal in relation to its size. It feeds on small prey such as jerboas, sand rats, ground squirrels and rock hyraxes, but also the larger reedbuck and duiker. From sitting, it can launch itself four to five metres into the air, aided by its strong limbs and hindquarters to catch flying birds. Being a nocturnal animal, it mainly hunts at night but also seeks prey in the twilight hours. Diurnal hunting for birds has been observed.
After a gestation period of about 78 days, a litter of two to four, occasionally five, kittens are born. Birthing occurs during the months of October to March, and females frequently mate with up to three males. Kittens gain about 21 g in weight daily, and are independent by 12 months of age even though maturity is only reached between 16 to 18 months.
The caracal is inherently a nocturnal, solitary, elusive and hostile animal. It has become even more secretive due to being hunted by farmers in South Africa who regard them as a hindrance.
This cat prefers dry savanna, rugged terrain in mountainous regions, woodland areas and scrubland as its habitat. It lives up to 3000 m high in mountainous areas and can survive for long periods without water, gaining metabolic moisture from its prey.
Where they are found
The caracal can be found throughout South Africa in rocky, hilly terrains and open woodland savannas.
In comparison to the spoor of the serval, caracal spoor is wider and has more noticeable indentations at the front and middle parts of the pad.