Caracal caracal 

Scope: Global

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Caracal caracal
Species Authority: (Schreber, 1776)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Caracal, Desert Lynx, African Caracal, Asian Caracal
French Lynx Du Désert
Spanish Lince Africano
Taxonomic Notes: The caracal has been classified variously with Lynx and Felis in the past, but molecular evidence supports a monophyletic genus. The caracal is closely allied with the African golden cat Caracal aurata and serval Leptailurus serval (Johnson et al. 2006, Eizirik et al. submitted).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Henschel, P. & Sogbohossou, E.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Listed as Least Concern as the caracal is widespread and relatively common, particularly in southern and eastern Africa, although there have been range losses in northern Africa, and the species is of conservation concern in most of its Asian range (IUCN Cats Red List workshop, 2007).
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The caracal is widely distributed across Africa, Central Asia, and south-west Asia into India. While it is relatively common, there is concern over the status of populations on the edge of its range in the Central Asian republics and in Pakistan (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The caracal is widely distributed on the African continent, being absent only from the equatorial forest belt and from much of the central Sahara, but they are present in the montane massifs of that desert and its fringes, including the Hoggar and Tassili mountains of SE Algeria and the Saharan Atlas, the Aïr of Niger, and edges of the great sand areas of Eastern Great Erg Tun and Alg. Their range is continuous to the west and east of the central Sahara, linking the ranges to the south and north of the desert (Stuart and Stuart in press). The historical range of the caracal mirrors that of the cheetah, and both coincide with the distribution of several small desert gazelles (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Caracals still occupy much of their historic range in Africa but have experienced substantial loss at the peripheries, particularly in north and west Africa (Ray et al. 2005).
Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Algeria; Angola (Angola); Benin; Botswana; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chad; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Kuwait; Lebanon; Lesotho; Libya; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Mozambique; Namibia; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Tunisia; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Western Sahara; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):3300
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:In sub-Saharan Africa, the caracal is common in parts of its range, especially in South Africa and southern Namibia where it is expanding into new, and recolonizing vacant, areas; however, in central and West Africa, where they are largely absent, densities are apparently lower, possibly due to finer partitioning of resources in a more diverse carnivore community (Stuart and Stuart in press). Avenant and Nel (1998) recorded a density of 0.23-0.47 caracal/km² in the West Coast N.P. in the Western Cape of South Africa.

In its north Africa, the caracal is considered threatened (Stuart and Stuart in press), and rare in the Central Asian republics and India (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The caracal occupies a wide variety of habitats from semi-desert to relatively open savanna and scrubland to moist woodland and thicket or evergreen/montane forest (as in the Western Cape of South Africa), but favours drier woodland and savanna regions with lower rainfall and some cover (Stuart and Stuart in press). While drier open country is preferred, they are absent from true desert and are usually associated with some form of vegetative cover (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). They range up to 2,500 m and exceptionally 3,300 m (exceptionally) in the Ethiopian Highlands (Ray et al. 2005). Caracal prey mainly on small- to medium-sized mammals, from small murids to antelope up to ~50 kg, but they will also take birds, reptiles, invertebrates, fish, and some plant matter (Stuart and Stuart in press). Like cheetahs, caracals were captured and trained to hunt for Indian royalty, but although it is capable of taking the larger ungulates it was mainly used for small game and birds (Divyabhanusinh 1995). Caracals often scavenge (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Home ranges are large in arid areas, with the home ranges of three males averaging 316.4 km² on Namibian ranchland (Marker and Dickman 2005). In Saudi Arabia, a radio-tracked male ranged over 270 km² to 1,116 km² in different seasons (Van Heezik and Seddon 1998), while in an Israeli study, home ranges of males averaged 220.6 km² (Weisbein and Mendelssohn 1990). Male home ranges in better-watered environments of South Africa are smaller (two males averaged 26.9 km² in West Coast National Park: (Avenant and Nel 1998), and female ranges are considerably smaller than males (Stuart and Stuart in press).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): As caracals are capable of taking small domestic livestock, they are often subject to persecution. Stuart (1982) recorded that over the years 1931-1952 an average of 2,219 caracals per year were killed in control operations in the Karoo, South Africa. Similarly, Namibian farmers responding to a government questionnaire reported killing up to 2,800 caracals in 1981 (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Brand (1989) found that caracals were responsible for the loss of up to 5.3 domestic stock per 100 km² per annum in the former Cape Province of South Africa. Severity of depredation appears to be dependent on the availability of wild prey and husbandry techniques (Stuart and Stuart in press).

Habitat destruction (agriculture and desertification) is a significant threat in central, west, north and northeast Africa where caracals are naturally sparsely distributed (Ray et al. 2005). It is also likely to be the main threat in the Asian part of its range (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Populations in Asian range states are included in CITES Appendix I; populations in African range states are included on Appendix II. Hunting of the species is prohibited in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan (updated from Nowell and Jackson 1996). In sub-Saharan Africa, the caracal is protected from hunting in about half of its range states (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Namibia and South Africa, the caracal is classified as a Problem Animal, which permits landowners to kill the species without restriction; nonetheless, caracal have persisted and remain widespread.

Caracal are present in many large, and well-managed protected areas, across their vast range.

Citation: Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Henschel, P. & Sogbohossou, E. 2008. Caracal caracal. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T3847A10121895. . Downloaded on 29 August 2016.
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