Tag Archives: African wild cat

The Wild Cats of Tenikwa

There are a number of nocturnal animals in South Africa that are very difficult to see in the wild.  Unless you live on a farm, or are willing to pay exorbitant prices to take a night drive in a game reserve (which is actually not a problem for foreign tourists with our favourable exchange rate), your chances of seeing them are very slim.  Rob and I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time out in the bush and have been on a number of game drives at night so we have seen a few of the nocturnal cats.  However, it is not ideal to photograph them in the dark.  It was therefore with great delight that we received a gift from family members, Mick and Jo (www.lookatbowen.com) of a photographic safari at Tenikwa, a local wild cat rehabilitation centre.  Situated a few kilometers east of Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route, Tenikwa is about forty kilometers away from our home in Knysna.

Cheetah

Not only were we given the opportunity to see many beautiful animals in daylight, but it being a photographic tour, we were privileged to have our own personal guide.  He went out of his way to ensure that we were able to get the best shots of the cats by removing obstacles and coaxing them out of their hiding places with food.  Obviously this isn’t the best way to see wild animals, but it’s a close second and it gave us a chance to add their pictures to our portfolio.

Walking the big cat!

Our tour started off with an opportunity to take a cheetah for an early morning walk.  We were given instructions on how to handle the animal so as not to startle it in any way and to keep up with him if he picked up his pace.  I never imagined that I would one day walk a cheetah on a lead – definitely an unusual experience for me!

Carakul

We’ve yet to see a Carakul in the wild, so it was great to be able to photograph this magnificent animal in a decent setting.  This is the largest of the small cats and has a somewhat strange-looking body, with hind legs that are slightly longer than the front legs and a shortish tail.  This is the only cat that doesn’t have any spots at all.  Farmers don’t like Carakuls as they prey on livestock and can be a nuisance.

Serval

This Serval chased after a stick in a kitten-like fashion when our guide tried to get it into a position for photographs.  Servals are hunted mercilessly by our indigenous folk for tribal customs and practices, which is such a shame as they are so beautiful.  We couldn’t photograph the African Wild Cats, because, unlike the Serval, they were very shy and wouldn’t budge from their cosy spot in the bush (isn’t that just typical of a cat!)

White Lion

The white lion is not a nocturnal animal, but it is unusual and this was a particularly beautiful young male specimen.  He almost looked like he could have been the family dog – part Labrador!  I must admit that a white lion is not my favourite.  Rob and I love to see lions in the wild, especially the gorgeous black-maned ones that lie in the red dunes of the Kalahari.  Many legends abound about the white lions though, and if these myths are to be believed, then these lions are very special.  They don’t do well in the wild and will mainly be found in private reserves or rehabilitation centres.

Leopard

We’re always excited to see leopards and the one at Tenikwa was very photogenic.  We were grateful that our guide was able to bring him out into the open as he was fast asleep when we arrived.  One can’t help feeling sorry for these animals being kept in captivity – the ideal is always for them to be able to enjoy the freedom that they were born into.

All in all a super morning enjoying God’s creatures and getting some nice photos for our collection.  Thanks again, Mick and Jo, it was great!

The African Wild Cat

There’s something special about being in a game reserve and seeing the big cats like lions, leopards and cheetahs and then coming across a little African wild cat.  Wild cats look so much like domestic cats that it’s hard to believe that they aren’t the tame, lovable creatures that rule our hearts and homes.  Although they live side by side with their larger cat family members, Wild cats have to be alert and cunning as they are preyed upon by lions and leopards.  Because they’re nocturnal you don’t see them very often, so when you do, it makes the occasion quite memorable.

African wild cat

We’ve come across these cats a few times in the wild.  They’re usually seen at sundown and disappear very quickly when they see humans.  However, on our last two visits to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, we were able to spend some time photographing them.  They are mainly terrestrial, especially when hunting rats, mice, spiders and birds, but you actually need to keep an eye out for them in trees, as our most successful sightings have been during the day when they’ve found a nice spot on a branch to sleep on.  If you’re very lucky, they will lie there warily watching you without running off.  Our biggest problem was not being able to get out of the car to get close enough for a decent photograph.

African wild cat

Wild cats are solitary animals that only get together to mate and a successful copulation results in a pregnancy lasting about two months.  Breeding takes place throughout the year, peaking during the summer months, and litters usually comprise of two to five kittens.

African wild cat

African wild cats (Felis lybica) are greyish in colour with stripes on the legs and tail, and the females are slightly smaller than the males.  They’re found throughout the region.

African wild cat

 

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 3

We changed campsites three times at Rooiputs as we couldn’t get bookings at one particular site for the whole duration of our stay.  In fact very often the campsites were purported to be fully booked and we ended up being the only campers there.  Travel agents apparently make block bookings and then fail to come with clients.  This is unfortunate as people are turned away when in fact there are sites standing empty.

The birdlife around the campsite was always interesting.  Rob managed to track down the Barn Owl that we had found in the A-frame.  It had taken up residence in a nearby tree, obviously not planning to come back until we had left.

Barn Owl
Another lovely bird to photograph is the little Pygmy falcon that is so prevalent in the Park.

Pygmy falcon

We had a very productive game drive on our last afternoon of the holiday.  We took a drive a short way past the Kij Kij waterhole and Rob spotted an African wild cat (Felis lybica)  in a tree.   (How he  saw it amongst all those branches is still a mystery!)  These wild cats, that closely resemble domestic tabby cats, are mostly nocturnal, which made our daytime sighting all the more gratifying.

African wild cat

On the same drive we came across a pair of Tawny Eagles in a tree, which we photographed.  We later found out that they had caught a snake, that can be seen pinned under the foot of one of the eagles.  Amazing what one could miss with the naked eye!

Tawny eagles with a snake

Another bonus was a Honey Badger, known in Afrikaans as a ratel (Mellivora capensis).  The Honey Badger, which gives off a foul smell like a polecat when threatened, is tough and aggressive, so has few enemies.  They mainly hunt at night, but are often seen in the early morning or evening.  Their gait is rolling and they keep their noses close to the ground as they hunt for food – bees, honey, fruit, scorpions and reptiles.

Honey badger

We saw literally dozens of leopard tortoises in the Park.  This tiny one was battling to climb to safety from the road.

Tiny tortoise

Everyone knows that awful feeling when a wonderful holiday has come to an end.  The sadness at knowing that we’d be leaving behind wonderful friends, amazing birds and animals and the freedom of the great outdoors.  Our special evenings around the campfire chatting about the day’s sightings would be sorely missed, as would the jovial sundowner times at our various ‘lone tree pubs’ out in the bush.  But we had so much to be grateful for and we always had next year to look forward to – wherever the next adventure would be.

Sunset through the A-frame

The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is truly one of Africa’s great game reserves.  If you have the right vehicle and don’t mind bad roads, then it really deserves to be on your list of ‘must do’s’.

Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 1 | Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 2 |
Botswana 2010 : Rooiputs Part 3 | Trips