Volunteer in South Africa to observe Predators and their Prey

Volunteer in South Africa to observe Predators and their Prey

Posted by Sam Hopkins on 31st Jan 2014

It is always great to hear news from our projects, and this month we have been fortunate enough to receive some news from the Shamwari Conservation Experience.

Volunteer in South Africa to experience predator sightings with their prey, including lions and one of Africa's least talked about predators: the caracal!

"2014 has started with a bang! Shamwari Conservation Experience welcomes our new coordinator, Jone Fick. Jone has a degree in Nature Conservation, and has worked as a volunteer coordinator in the past and worked as a field guide at Shamwari Game Reserve for the past year. This month we have had some extraordinary wild cat sightings with their prey.

Whilst out predator monitoring, the Shamwari Conservation Experience team found a lioness and two others stalking something from the bush line. We noticed that she had something in her mouth and at first thought, it was a skull from an old carcass stuck in her teeth. But looking through binoculars, we saw blood dripping from her mouth and we realised that it was a leopard tortoise – a bit of an unusual prey item! Whilst stalking, she never put it down or tried to eat it for the whole 20 mins we were watching the lions. She probably didn't want to lose her snack to the others! It goes to show that lions really are rather lazy – the slow tortoise didn't stand a chance!

Another strange find was when we came across an elusive caracal (seen in the fantastic picture below), which appeared to be eating something amongst the grass. Caracals, also known as 'desert lynxes', are one of Africa's most widespread predators. Possessing tremendous speed and agility, the caracal is a formidable predator capable of tackling prey two to three times its size (caracals reach a maximum of 20kg). With long and powerful hind legs, it is able to make incredible leaps up to three metres high and catch birds in flight by batting them from the air with its large paws. The caracal is also the fastest cat of its size, using its speed to run down prey such as hyraxes, hares and even small antelopes! This species is superbly adapted for life in arid environments and requires very little water.

Usually solitary, they are able to maintain territories which may vary between 5 and 48 square kilometres in South Africa, and even up to 221 square kilometres in the Middle East!

Shamwari's caracals are always fascinating to see, and it is always a great privilege to spot them! Once this particular caracal had retreated into the shade, we took a closer look. It was eating the leftovers from what seemed to be a fresh lion kill. Even though caracals are these keen hunters, jumping impressive heights for their prey, they will also occasionally turn into scavengers– much like lions, hyenas and jackals. It just goes to show that nothing goes to waste in the bush!"

It sounds like the Shamwari team have had a great January so far – let's hope the sightings continue throughout the year of both the lions and caracals. We look forward to more updates as we get them! Keep your eyes peeled on our Facebook and Twitter pages for the most up to date information.


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