The caracal (Felis caracal) is a medium-sized wildcat that roams the savannas, deserts, and forests of Africa and parts of the Middle East. It has a coat of tawny or reddish gold colour with a white chin, throat, and underside.
All cats are monarchial, of course, but the caracal seems to have a crown: Its trademark is the large, pointy ears, tipped with black and tufted.
Each of its extraordinary ears has over 20 muscles that swivel around like a satellite to detect their prey’s slightest sounds. They may use the tuffs to enhance the incoming sound or communicate with other caracals via ear twitching and body movements.
The caracal is the largest of small African wild cats, an exceptional hunter with a slender build, long legs, and a short, sharply tapered tail. It’s like a cross between a lynx and a leopard. It has a sandy-coloured coat perfect for camouflage, and stiff fur cushions on its footpads, making it nearly a silent stalker.
Its strong hind legs allow it to leap up to 10 feet high and grab birds from midair with its thick, hooked claws. A Caracal will sometimes climb trees and cache its prey, like a leopard.
Caracal Feeding and Behaviour
Caracals are opportunistic predators, preying on whatever they can find, including (interestingly) small monkeys and antelopes, mongooses, hyraxes, rodents, and birds. Sometimes they hunt in human settlements for sheep and goats.
The caracals are primarily nocturnal creatures, secretive and solitary. When cornered, they become extremely aggressive. As a result of being hunted by farmers (as they prey on small livestock), they have become even more elusive, and the possibility of seeing them has become relatively difficult.
It is mainly active in the morning and evening, although it hunts at night during the hottest months. It can survive for long periods without drinking, as most of the moisture it needs comes from the tissue fluids of its prey.
Caracal mothers can have 70 to 78 days of gestation, giving birth to about 1 to 4 litters, who can live up to 12 years in the wild, and up to 20 years in captivity.
Their biggest threat is being hunted and killed by humans (farmers because of predation on their livestock), lions and hyenas.
Where to see caracals in Uganda
Found in the open, dry country from semi-desert to savanna. They hide and sleep in crevices among rocks and fallen trees.
In Uganda, the caracal occurs only in Kidepo National Park, but it is widespread throughout South Africa.