African Wildcat spotted at Ts’ehlanyane National Park

Maliba Lodge is excited to report that an African Wildcat was recently caught on camera within the Ts’ehlanyane National Park in Lesotho. This is an incredibly rare sighting and was made possible by the motion triggered camera that is sighted at our Vulture restaurant.

The African Wildcat (Felis silvestris libyca) is also known as the Desert Cat, African Desert Cat or simply Wildcat. In Afrikaans (South Africa) vaalboskat means grey bush cat.

African Wildcat Felis silvestris libyca territory in AfricaAs a species, the wildcat is divided into many regional subspecies and their number and classification varies depending on which school of thought is followed. The distribution in its various coloured forms extends across most parts of the African continent with the exclusion of the true desert areas around the Sahara and the central African rain forests belt. The species also extends up to the Arabian Peninsula, where it can be found in most coastal regions away from the dessert heartland. They are native to Southern Africa, in countries such as Botswana, but can be found to the east and the west as well.

Identification:

Body:  The African Wildcat looks similar to a short-haired domestic tabby cat, but has relatively longer legs and a long thin, tapering tail. When sitting upright, their long legs cause the body to be in an almost vertical position. The head-body length is 45 to 75 cm, the tail 20 to 38 cm, and the weight ranges from 3 to 6.5 kg.

Coat: Because of the diversity of habitat in which the African wildcat is found there is a wide range of coat colouration, varying from a light sand colour in the arid semi-desert and grassland areas to a darker grey/brown in the more forested locations. Markings also vary, from faint vertical stripes on the body, with dark rings on the legs as well as on the black-tipped tail. Generally the African species of wildcat are of slighter build compared to the European wildcat, have a rather more pointed tail and show a characteristic reddish colouring on the belly, backs of the ears and hind legs. The chin and throat are white and the chest is usually paler than rest of body.

Face: The face looks like a typical domestic cat, with an angular shape, faint vertical stripes on the forehead and diagonal markings on the cheeks. The nose is pink and there are white markings around the eyes and mouth.  The backs of the ears have a reddish tint, a feature which is often used to distinguish a pure bred African wild cat from hybrids.

African Wildcat (Felis libyca). Kalahari-Gemsbok National Park. South Africa

Hunting is usually carried out at night, although crepuscular activity is common in some habitats away from close proximity to human activity. Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, which is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning “twilight.  African Wildcats are more nocturnal in the warm weather and diurnal (active during the day) during very cold weather.

Throughout the range, rodent species form the main part of the African wildcat’s diet and include mice, rats and gerbils – other prey species include scrub hare and rock rabbits, insects, birds and small reptiles.

The African Wildcat is generally solitary except when mating, or when the female is raising kittens. Both males and females establish territories which they mark and defend.

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