Urban caracal diet

Dear readers,

It’s early winter in South Africa and Cape Town has been particularly warm and dry. So dry that the City implemented restrictions on water usage. We are all concerned and even with last week big storm the dam levels haven’t increased much. The animals seem to be able to find enough water in the mountains though. I keep being amazed by how adaptable the species living on the urban edge are. One such example is the caracal. Urban caracals in Cape Town have been studied for two years now by my friend and colleague Dr. Laurel Serieys. Check out her website for more info, she has a great introduction video to her work: http://www.urbancaracal.org/

Talking about urban caracals, I thought I’d share the blog of a colleague who is studying the diet of those cats in the city of Cape Town under Laurel’s guidance (her supervisors being Justin and Jacqui). Gabi Leighton is an MSc student at UCT who started her project in 2016. Justin had asked me to teach her how to prepare scats in the lab to analyse their content and Gabi found really interesting stuff! What amazed me the most is to see how different the Cape Town caracals are from the Karoo caracals, while they are only separated by a few hundreds of kilometers. To find out what urban caracals eat and learn more about Gabi’s work, visit her blog: https://urbancaracaldiet.wordpress.com/


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Two days with CapeNature

Last week, Marion and Marine were invited by Dr.AnneLise Schutte-Vlok (again!) to present their research at the CapeNature Quarterly Meeting in Oudtshoorn.

It was good to see Marius Brand (manager of Anysberg Nature Reserve) and Theresa van der Westhuizen (Conservation Services Manager) again and to discuss our results with new people.

Marion presenting her work on Karoo baboons to the CapeNature Quarterly Meeting in Oudtshoorn in the presence of Mr. Mbulelo Jacobs, CapeNature Garden Route area manager

The previous day, Marion and Marine stayed in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and had the opportunity to see some of its amazing rock art in the company of Tom Barry (manager of the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve), Johan Huisamen (ecological coordinator for CapeNature) and Natacha and Annelise, two CapeNature interns.

Bibrons Thicktoe Gecko (Chondrodactylus bibronii), our night friend in the cottage in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Marion, Johan, Annelise, Natacha and Tom in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Discovering some rock art in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Rock art in Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

A special thank you to Dr. Annelise Schutte-Vlok to make it possible and organizing our venue to this far side of the Karoo, from fuel to accommodation; thanks to Tom for showing us around the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve and to CapeNature for their assistance with our research.

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Presentation at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve Forum

Last Tuesday, Marion and I (Marine) woke up at 4 am to leave Cape Town and drive to the Oudtshoorn Experimental Farm in the Karoo. We were invited by Dr. AnneLise Schutte-Vlok to give presentations at the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) Forum.

Marion talked about the conflict between Karoo baboons and sheep farmers, and particularly about her recent findings about baboon diet through isotope analysis. I presented the new iCWild Institute at UCT (of which the Karoo Predator Project is now part) and shared some of the results from my PhD about biodiversity on farms and protected area, diet and spatial ecology of mesocarnivores.

The meeting went really well and was interesting with the audience asking lots of questions and sharing their experience about predators.

The GCBR is a non-profit organization of citizens who are dedicated to the conservation of the Klein Karoo biodiversity and the socioeconomic development of its people. The UNESCO has recognized the region as a place of major biodiversity significance for the planet. To learn more about the GCBR and their activities, visit their website: http://www.gouritz.com/home/#.WR7_lBMpwdQ

The Karoo Predator Project wants to thank all the actors of the GCBR Forum and in particular Dr. AnneLise Schutte-Vlok for inviting us to share our research.

Marion presenting her work at the GCBR Forum in Oudtshoorn

Marion and Marine after their talks at the GCBR Forum. Photo Tisha Steyn.

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Author Workshop for Scientific Assessment on Livestock and Predation

Last Thursday and Friday, Justin, Nicoli, Marion and Marine were invited to Port Elizabeth to attend the author workshop for the Scientific Assessment on Livestock and Predation in South Africa (to learn more about the project, see previous post or click here).

The workshop was the opportunity to facilitate collaborative interactions between the different author teams looking at various strategic issues of the Scientific Assessment.

Nicoli is a co-author on the chapter of Jane Carruthers about the History of predator-stock conflict in South Africa.

Justin is a co-author on the chapter entitled “Review of international management practices of predation of livestock: Lessons for South Africa” led by Phil Richardson.

Marion joined Jurie du Plessis on the chapter entitled “Review of past and current management of predators”.

Marine is part of the same chapter as Justin, in addition to two other chapters led by Craig Tambling about the “Role of meso-predators in functioning ecosystems and the potential effects of managing their populations on these ecosystems and on regional and local biodiversity”; and led by Liaan Minnie about the “Biology/ecology of jackal and caracal and their interactions with livestock”.


The workshop was a good opportunity to meet – sometimes for the first time – coauthors and to see colleagues such as Niel Viljoen who assisted us with the trapping of jackals and caracals for collaring and who was also present at the workshop.

The final book for the assessment will be available early next year.

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Second year of good exchange with the Conservation Biology MSc students

For the second consecutive year, the Karoo Predator Project was invited to lecture the conservation biology MSc students at UCT.

The first day, Beatrice talked about her research and Nicoli presented the jackal narratives. On the second day, Marine gave a talk about her PhD journey, the creation of the Karoo Predator Project, the different methods she employed in the field to answer her scientific questions and the challenges she encountered along the way. She also gave some results from her research.

The students paid close attention to the talks and asked interesting questions, making it a real interaction that the three lecturers enjoyed a lot.

The Karoo Predator Project wishes all the students from the course success with their studies and in their future conservation career.


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Congratulations to Storme Viljoen!

The Karoo Predator Project is very proud of their M.Sc. student Storme Viljoen for handing in her Master thesis “Wildlife health in human-modified landscapes: epidemiology of tick-borne pathogens affecting black-backed jackals and caracals” on Monday at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. The last past weeks have been extremely tough and busy for Storme who was a bit deprived of sleep (as you can see on the picture below). Congratulations Storme, we are very proud of you!

Storme Viljoen, exhausted after handing in her M.Sc. thesis at the University of Cape Town, having a little nap in the lab.

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For our French followers

For our followers who can read French, here is the last article published by the Project about the diet of predators in the Karoo:


The Karoo Predator Project thank the “Pôle Grands Prédateurs” for hosting articles about the project on their blog.

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