What We Do

Photo credit: City of Cape Town, 2016

Photo credit: City of Cape Town, 2016

 
 

It all started when...

While earning her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Los Angeles, California, USA, Dr. Laurel Serieys dreamed of making an impact on conservation in a place beyond California. In California, Dr. Serieys, PhD studied bobcats, a species very similar to caracals, in the dense urban matrix of Los Angeles. There, she learned about the many ways humans impact the landscape that can have downstream consequences for biodiversity conservation. As a devout conservationist, Dr. Serieys wanted to explore other important biodiversity conservation issues faced elsewhere in the world. With a bit of luck and a lot of faith entrusted in her by the University of Cape Town and The Cape Leopard Trust, she came to Cape Town to establish the Urban Caracal Project in Cape Town in September 2014. The mission was simple at the time. Dr. Serieys wanted to learn more about caracals in general. Despite their wide geographic distribution, there's actually not much known about them! Another overarching goal of the Urban Caracal Project was to learn whether the caracals are adapting to increasingly human-dominated landscapes, and if so, how. Unexpectedly, the project has become something much bigger and more rewarding than Dr. Serieys could have dreamed!

What are we trying to do?

  1. Establish baseline information about the caracal population in the Cape Peninsula: population size, health of individuals, and the distribution of caracals across the Peninsula.
  2. Evaluate the effects of urbanization on the behavior, movement patterns, diet, and genetic health of caracals in the Peninsula.
  3. Assess threats to survival for caracals in the Peninsula and potentially beyond to other parts of South Africa.

What phase of research are we in?

 

Why do it?

  • Urbanization is the principal threat to biodiversity conservation worldwide.
  • The Cape Peninsula is a ‘biodiversity hotspot’ that has lost almost all its large mammals such as Cape lions, leopards, brown hyena, and jackals.
  • Caracals may play a vital role in maintaining ecosystem balance since they are the largest remaining predator in the area.
  • The Cape Peninsula is isolated by urban Cape Town, an urban/agricultural matrix that is rapidly increasing in size, leading to isolation of wildlife populations.
  • The study on caracals in the Peninsula is a tool to understand how urbanization may be threatening wildlife across South Africa, and other parts of the world, similarly threatened by urbanization.