Short documentary about the Karoo: episode II

Dear readers,

Our photographers Denis Palanque and Nathalie Houdin are happy to present the second episode of their series of short documentaries around their time in the Karoo. The second episode involves the small cats of the Karoo and the Cat Conservation Trust of Marion Holmes, Cradock, Eastern Cape.

Episode II: Marion Holmes’ Cat Conservation Trust

Marion Holmes and one of her resident servals.

Even if large wild cats disappeared from the Karoo region because of human activities, this dry and scorched land is still inhabited by small- and medium-sized felines. For them, life is, however, not that simple when they come into contact with humans.

During our photography report on the Karoo Predator Project, we were lucky enough to meet Marion Holmes. Marion graduated in Botany and with her husband Richard; they live near Cradock in the Eastern Cape.

They chose to change their lives and stopped farming sheep that were not well-enough adapted to the harsh conditions and did not allow them to make a decent living. Instead, they have started a game farm. They only keep herbivores on their farm where they attract foreign trophy hunters (mostly).


Young African wildcat at the Cat Conservation Trust rehab centre.

While Richard is managing the hunting side of their business, Marion has created a breeding and care centre for the small wild cats of the Karoo: The Cat Conservation Trust. The centre takes care of injured, sick or orphan wild cats. Marion and her assistants look after them, train them to hunt and when possible release them into the wild. Some, handicapped, almost blind or too injured to be rehabilitated into the wild remain at the centre. A vital balance exists between the two structures and without the left over meat from the hunting farm, Marion could not take care of all her little protégés.


Young serval playing at the centre.


Marion Holmes playing with one of the servals she rescued.


Marion Holmes feeding a caracal at the Cat Conservation Trust.

The centre takes care of several species, caracals (Caracal caracal), African wildcats (the ancestor of our domestic cat, Felis sylvestris lybica), the threatened black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) and servals (Leptailurus serval). Small cats are a vital part of the ecosystems in which they live but desperately need to be protected as well.


African wildcat looking grumpy in its “den” at the centre.

The Cat Conservation Trust is an NGO that aims to create public awareness of the plight of small cats through research and education. It is supported by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Cat Specialist Dr. Mircea Pfeiderer of Germany, Dr. Robertson and Mrs. Beryl Wilson.


Serval at the centre.

To support them or « adopt a cat », please contact them.


Serval rescued by Marion Holmes.

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