Tag Archives: Felis lybica

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