No such thing as a free caracal lunch

This is just a brief introduction to the caracal diet aspect of the Urban Caracal Project, which will also be documented here.

I’m an MSc Biological Sciences student in my first year of study at the University of Cape Town. My research aim is to investigate the diet of caracal (aka “rooikat”) living and hunting in the urban spaces of Cape Town, South Africa. These elusive yet adaptable medium-sized cats have managed to persist in a city with an increasingly hardening urban edge; using greenbelts, empty land as well as natural areas. The latter is mostly land forming part of the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

Most citizens of Cape Town are surprised to hear that caracals live in such close proximity, perhaps illustrating how good they are at going unseen! As can be seen on this website, a lot of really exciting work is being done to study the effects that urbanisation is having on these cats, from movement patterns and gene flow to rodenticide and disease exposure. My project is a small part of this larger ongoing research effort and will investigate their diet. However, I’m hoping to make it a bit more interesting for myself by putting the dietary data in a spatial context, linking what they choose to eat, where they choose to eat it and how this is influenced by urbanisation. We expect that while there might be easy pickings near the urban edge, this may draw caracals closer to the risks of the big city… There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!

Gabi Leighton