Ecology of Caracals and Their Distribution in Africa: A Review Paper

Taye Dobamo


Caracals (Felis caracal, Schreber 1776) are medium-sized wild cats. They are placed in the family felidae and subfamily felinae. These species were first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber as Felis caracal. Caracals occur in northern Africa, Asia and at least 36 sub-Saharan African countries, yet little has been published regarding their spatial ecology. Caracal occupies a wide variety of habitats, from semi-desert to relatively open savannah and scrubland to moist woodland and thicket, evergreen forest, montane grassland, and arid mountains.  Its habitat is mostly arid areas and it has a key role in the control of rodent populations. They typically ranges up to 2,500 m and 3,000 m above sea level. The conservation status of caracal populations is not clear across most of the range, but the Asiatic population is threatened and listed in CITES Appendix I and all others as Appendix II. The main threats for the caracal are habitat loss and human conflict due to frequent livestock attacks. Lack of knowledge about the caracal and the unknown impacts of the conflict on its population may drive the species to an endangered situation. Possessing tremendous speed and agility, the caracal is a formidable predator capable of tackling prey two to three times larger than its size. Their long, powerful hind legs enable them to make incredible leaps up to three metres high and catch birds in flight by batting them from the air with its large paws. Similar to all other species in the family felidae, caracals are strict carnivores. Caracals are usually nocturnal, being active from dusk to dawn and early morning and resting during the day in dense vegetation or rock crevices. Caracals prey mainly on small- to medium-sized mammals, from small murids to antelope up to ~50 kg, but they will also feed upon birds, reptiles, invertebrates, fish, small-sized carnivores and some plant matter. Camouflage is a primary defence against predators. They are polygynandrous (promiscuous). Both sexes become sexually mature by the time they are a year old; production of gametes begins even earlier at seven to ten months, the earliest successful copulation occur around 14 to 15 months of age. These species are classified as problem animals in Africa and are commonly regarded as vermin because of occasional predation upon small stock. This negative perception has resulted in extensive persecution of caracals.

Keywords: Caracals, IUCN, CITES, Conservation, Distribution

DOI: 10.7176/JBAH/9-13-05

Publication date:July 31st 2019

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3208 ISSN (Online)2225-093X

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