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| Regions > African Savanna > Caracal Lynx

Caracal Lynx

Location at the Zoo: African Savanna



Region:

Africa

Class:

Mammalia

Order:

Carnivora

Family:

Felidae

Genus:

Caracal

Scientific Name:

Caracal caracal caracal

Description

: The caracal lynx is lightly built with a long slender body and legs. The tail is approximately one-third the length of the head and body. The head is flattened and the ears are narrow and pointed with tufts up to 45mm long. The fur is dense and the general colouration is a reddish brown. There is white on the chin, throat and belly and a narrow black line running from the corner of eye to the nose. The backs and tufts of the ears are black. The eyes are yellow/brown, and the pupils contract to form circles (a lynx characteristic) rather than the slits found in most small cats. The paws are delicate, lacking the furry cushions of other felids.

Head and Body Length: 60 - 92 cm.
Height at Shoulder: 38 - 50 cm.
Tail Length: 23 - 31 cm.
Weight: 13 - 19 kg.


Distribution

: The caracal ranges through drier portions of Africa and into Arabia, Afghanistan and India. There are several subspecies. C. caracal ranges throughout East, Central and South Africa.

Habitat

: Mainly dry country – woodland, savanna and scrub – but avoids sandy deserts.

Food

: Feed mostly on various rodents, hares, birds, and small antelope.

Reproduction and Development

: In most parts of its range, the caracal has no set breeding period and a female may often mate with up to three males. One to six kittens, usually three, are born after a gestation period of about 69 - 78 days. Litters are born and hidden in abandoned burrows, crevices, hollow trees, or dense patches of brush.

Newborns have bright yellow/reddish/brown fur, the face has black markings, and the ear flaps are black. They grow silvery hairs making them grayer than adults. They have reddish belly spots that fade as they age. The kittens can open their eyes on the first day of life, but they are not completely open for six to 10 days. Ears stand up at 14 days.

Kittens are able to leave the birthing den at around one month old, and at about this time the mother will begin regularly moving them to new locations. Cubs are fully weaned at four months, but eat some meat from about six weeks old. They remain with their mother until the age of about 12 months, when they become independent and start to reach sexual maturity.

Adaptations

: The caracal is largely nocturnal, but sometimes it is seen during the day. It climbs and jumps well and is a skillful, agile hunter. Mainly terrestrial and usually solitary, it stalks prey, and then captures it after a quick dash or leap. The caracal uses its agility and superior jumping ability to catch birds just after take-off. During the hottest part of the day, they rest in a den, hollow tree, under tree roots, or in the discarded den of another animal. They do not need water as they extract moisture from their prey. Urine is excreted in very small quantities, mere drops, and is highly concentrated.

Caracal lynx defend themselves and their young in typical cat fashion, spitting defiantly, scratching and biting. If pursued by dogs, the cat will flee into the trees, and if cornered they will defend themselves vigorously. Caracal vocalizations include meows, growls, hisses, and coughing calls. The ear tufts are also used as a form of communication.

Threats to Survival

: Although an element of hunting for caracal skins takes place in parts of Central and West Africa, the cat is not generally under threat from game hunting or poaching. However, a significant number of caracals are killed by farmers in Southern Africa, where outside protected areas; the caracal is known to take domestic livestock.

They are considered rare or threatened in Asia and North Africa; widespread in South Africa and hunted as a poultry raider wherever they are found. Poisoned carcasses are put out by ranchers to kill predators, which kill a variety of carnivores. Caracals are most abundant in South Africa and Namibia, where their range is expanding, possibly due to extirpation of black-backed jackals by farmers.

An additional threat is severe habitat loss as people move further into their territory, and their prey species are driven out. The Indian subspecies is now thought to be highly endangered. The African population is not protected over most of their range, while the Asian population is protected over half of their range.

Status

: IUCN: Least Concern; CITES: Appendix II (African population). Appendix I(Asian population)

Zoo Diet

: TZ Feline meat diet, neck bones, day old chicks, and mice.


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