Research on mesocarnivore diet is underway. Marine collected more than 600 scats of black-backed jackals, caracals and leopards both on farmlands and in the Reserve. The analysis will start soon in the lab at UCT.
Another way of determining diet is to visit clusters of GPS points where the collared predators spent a few to several hours at once. These clusters may reflect a kill site and remains of prey can be found and identified. Even if this method is biased towards larger prey species, it is a good indication of what predators eat and an interesting complement to scat analysis. When a cluster is found, we visit each GPS point to look for prey remains.
Early in June, Marine and Kai went to the Beaufort West District to visit clusters on farms where two collared caracals are roaming. In this area, the clusters of 5 previously collared caracals indicated that the major prey species were dassies/hyraxes (Procavia capensis) and Smith’s red rock rabbit (Pronolagus rupestris). This time, even if dassies were found, we also found remains of lambs (it is the lambing season for many farmers in the Karoo at the moment). The culprit is an extremely old male caracal with broken teeth and a deformed front paw due to an encounter with a gin trap from which he escaped in the past.
The Project is in touch with the corresponding farmers to try to find quick solutions to protect their lambs in the areas where the caracal is moving.