Caracals in the Noordhoek Wetlands.
Caracals are definitely using the Noordhoek wetlands and Dassenberg Koppie, and as a result, have also fallen victim to poachers, says Dr Laurel Serieys, Coordinator of the Urban Caracal Project.
Noordhoek is a hotspot of caracal activity
“When we were collaring and monitoring caracals between 2015 and 2017, the Noordhoek wetlands was a hotspot of activity,” says Serieys. “At the time we knew of at least seven different individuals using that area. Those were the ones we had collared but it’s very likely that there were more,” she says.
Caracals have fallen victim to poachers
“Currently we don’t have any collared animals in the area as our fieldwork for the project ended early 2017. All collars fell off each animal after their period of data collection, as they were scheduled to do so. We’re not sure of the fates of all the caracals that were collared. We do know that one adult male was chased and killed by a poacher’s hunting dogs near Imhoff’s Gift, we found his collar cut off of him,” she says. “In another instance, SANParks Honorary Rangers found a previously collared adult female (Spitfire) caught in a snare in the wetlands, but she was safely released.”
Serieys says they have found that caracals are actually attracted to fire and recently burned areas. “Fires unearth seeds that small mammals feed on once the fire has passed. For the first couple weeks after a fire there will also be green shoots that the grysbok, a favourite caracal prey, like to feed on, she says. “Poachers often light fires to flesh out wildlife from the bush, but this actually attracts caracals. For all poached wildlife, the poachers may eat them or sell their pelts and body parts for mooti.”
Remove snares and report the location
Serieys says, “If you find a snare, remove it and report the location to us as exactly as possible by dropping a pin and Whatsapp’ing it to 079 837 8814. We connect with SANParks and trained rangers perform snare-sweeps in the areas where snares are found. It is an operation that also involves law enforcement who collect evidence,” she says. “The poachers and their snares are moving targets, as SANParks remove snares from an area, the poachers move to the next area, but we do find that poachers visit the same areas over and over again, like the wetlands and Dassenberg.
The planned Houmoed Extension will reduce caracals’ habitat
“The Noordhoek Wetlands is a hotspot for caracals, lots of animals use the area and caracals spend a lot of time there. It’s a very good resource for them," says Serieys. About the planned Houmoed Road Extension that will cut through the wetlands, Dr Serieys says, “Any time you remove habitat it is going to have a negative impact on the wildlife, so of course, as a caracal biologist I’m not in favour of putting the road there. However, caracals will use what habitat remains, what choice do they have?”
Should you see a caracal – take a photo and report the location
“It is a wonderful experience to see a caracal. If you do see one, appreciate it, keep your distance - 50 to 100m away - and do not disturb,” she says. If you are able to take a photo, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and fill out the reporting form on the Urban Caracal website. It is also important if you find a dead animal as it helps the project understand the threats to these animals’ survival http://www.urbancaracal.org/report-sightings-roadkill.
On a positive note, Dr Serieys says, “From what we can tell the population of caracals seems relatively healthy in and around Cape Town.”
Brad Bing, Chairperson of the Noordhoek Ratepayers Association (NRPA), says, “Caracals are a wonderful part of the biodiversity of the area that the NRPA is helping local conservation organisations to conserve. TreadLightly is one of our six 2030 vision goals, and it means living in a manner that allows animals to flourish in the wild habitats around us.”
The Urban Caracal Project is of the Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild) at the University of Cape Town. Key collaborators also include South Africa National Parks, Universities of California (Santa Cruz and Los Angeles), the City of Cape Town, and private landowners in Cape Town.
For more information about the Noordhoek Ratepayers Association please visit nrpa.org.za or on Facebook on @nrpapage
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