The Caracal - An Elusive Wild Cat
The caracal is a beautiful and elusive wild cat that lives in Africa, Arabia, central Asia and central India. The caracal is a medium sized wild cat and is noted for it’s beautiful elongated, tufted black ears. The male caracal will weigh between 30 and 40 pounds while the female weight around 25 to 30 pounds. They are approximately 25 to 35 inches in length and have a tail that is about one-third of their body length. The word caracal comes from the Turkish word, karakulak, for “black ear”. The caracal belongs to a lineage that dates back almost nine and a half million years, which makes it one of the oldest memebers of the family, felidae. Little is known about the caracal as they are rarely seen in the wild.
Caracal Population Falling
However, recently, their population in the farmlands of southern Nambia are beginning to suffer. Instead of them being the hunter, they are being the hunted. By what you ask, by livestock farmers and ranchers.
Livestock farmers and ranchers are blaming the caracal for the killing of some of their livestock. What the livestock farmers in Nambia do not understand is that the caracal has a specific diet and livestock is not one of their preferences. They can actually be easily deterred from preying on livestock.
Caracals main prey are hydrax, hares and birds. However, they have been known to prey on chickens, young sheep and goats. What the farmers don’t know is that the caracals that are not preying on the livestock actually protect the region from other predators that do, such as wild dogs and other smaller predators. The caracal is best known for it’s skill in hunting birds. It is able to leap up and snatch a bird right out of the air. They are surprisingly easy to tame and because of their skill in hunting birds, this has led to many caracals being trained to hunt game birds for the Persian and Indian royalty.
Caracal at Big Cat Rescue Center
Shoot on Site
Livestock farmers and ranchers have re-acted with a “shoot on sight” attitude. A young researcher who has been working with the caracals, had radio collared several of her cats to track where and what they are hunting. One of her cats was shot and killed on a nearby farm when it was seen just crossing the territory. The collar showed the caracal was not preying on the neighbors livestock. Some ranchers are also using traps similar to bear traps that will snap shut on the leg of any animal that steps into the trap. This animal, whatever it may be, is left to die a slow death due to slow blood loss, dehydration or from another predator. This is most definitely not the right answer.
There is currently a documentary conservation project in the works to raise awareness of the role of the caracal in the Nambian area. The documentary will highlight the work being done by this researcher to raise awareness and educate the locals about the caracal. If the population of caracals is decimated, the regulatory system for the area will lose its main predator and there will be an even larger loss of livestock. The conservation project has been successful in raising more than $5,000. to help them with the documentary. As a result of the plight of the caracal being brought to the forefront, many of the ranchers have already welcomed the researchers and are ready to talk.
The caracal is a beautiful and elusive wild cat and an excellent hunter. They are just one of the many species of wild cat for us to enjoy and appreciate. Remember, it is still a wild animal. It is not recommended to keep a caracal as a pet.
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