Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Aspects of the ecology of a poorly-known conflict-prone mesocarnivore: The case of the caracal (Caracal caracal) on farmland in South Africa (#288)

Marine Drouilly 1 , Nicoli Nattrass 2 , Beatrice Conradie 2 , M. Justin O'Riain 1
  1. Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa
  2. Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa, Center for Social Science Research, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, South Africa

Livestock depredation by carnivores is on the rise worldwide and is one of the key conservation issues in arid landscapes with low abundance of wild prey. To mitigate such a conflict, understanding its drivers is the first step conservationists should undertake. In South Africa, extensive conflict between small-livestock farmers and caracals (Caracal caracal) is reported to impact adversely on biodiversity and to threaten human livelihoods and food security. However, we know very little about caracal ecology, especially on farmland and about farmers' management practices and attitudes towards this cryptic cat. We monitored 12 caracals using GPS radio-collars on farmland in the South African Central Karoo semi-desert and studied diet through GPS location clusters (> 100) and scat collected on farmlands (n = 102) and in a nearby protected area (n = 80). We conducted face-to-face interviews with 77 local farmers to assess their tolerance of caracals. Caracals diet determined through scat analysis on farmland consisted primarily of domestic ungulates (25%) and scrub hare (19%) while they mostly prey on micromammals (58%) in the reserve. At GPS clusters, we found 30 wild prey items (rock hyrax: 22%) and 16 domestic prey items (sheep: 32%). Questionnaires showed that retaliation by trapping and hunting is common in the region. Caracals were ranked second most damaging predators with 94.8% of the farmers wanting to reduce their number on their farms and 41.6% wishing to eradicate caracals completely. Our work is the first one to provide information on caracals movement, diet choice and interactions with farmers in a landscape where they are heavily persecuted.