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Caracal aurata

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA MAMMALIA CARNIVORA FELIDAE

Scientific Name: Caracal aurata
Species Authority: (Temminck, 1827)
Common Name(s):
English African Golden Cat, Golden Cat
French Chat Doré, Chat Doré Africain
Spanish Gato Dorado
Synonym(s):
Profelis aurata (Temminck, 1827)
Taxonomic Notes: This species has traditionally either been included in the genus Felis (Kral and Zima 1980) or Profelis (Pocock 1917, Wozencraft 2005). More recent molecular data unequivocally reveal that the Caracal Caracal caracal and the Serval Leptailurus serval are closely allied with the African Golden Cat (Johnson et al. 2006, Eizerik et al. submitted).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Henschel, P., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C.& Sogbohossou, E.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Hoffmann, M. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Justification:
Listed as Near Threatened as it seems reasonable to believe that the species could have declined on the order of 20% over the course of the last 15 years across its range, due mainly to the impact of habitat loss, hunting and loss of prey base, particularly in West Africa and probably in Democratic Republic of Congo (hence almost qualifies as threatened under criterion A2bcd). Although there are no reliable density estimates, the total population almost certainly exceeds 10,000 mature individuals (IUCN Cats Red List Workshop 2007).
History:
2002 Vulnerable
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: The African golden cat is endemic to the forests of Equatorial Africa. There are no confirmed records from The Gambia and Guinea Bissau, nor from Togo and Benin (Ray and Butynski in press), which suggests a separation between Western and Central African populations (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Countries:
Native:
Angola (Angola); Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; Kenya; Liberia; Nigeria; Rwanda; Senegal; Sierra Leone; South Sudan; Uganda
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Africa's most poorly known cat, it is infrequently observed in the wild, and generally considered rare. However, skins are rather more frequently encountered (in museums, and among hunters and bushmeat markets), indicating that the species may not be as rare as field records suggest (Ray and Butynski in press) and possibly the threat of significant trade.
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: While the Neotropical and Indomalayan regions have several sympatric forest-dependent felid species, this is Africa's only one. The African golden cat occurs mainly in primary moist equatorial forest, although on the periphery of its range it penetrates savanna regions along riverine forest. It also occurs in montane forest and alpine moorland in the east of its range (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Ray and Butynski in press). The golden cat also has the distinction of being Africa's least studied felid, and only its diet has been researched. Two studies of scats - from the Ituri forest of the Congo (Hart et al. 1996) and the Dzanga-Sangha forest of the Central African republic (Ray and Sunquist 2001) - found similar results. Rodents and squirrels were the main prey item (70 % and 62% respectively), followed by small and medium-size duikers (antelopes) (25% and 33% respectively. Primates made up 5% of the prey items in both studies, and there have been several observations by primate researchers of African golden cats hunting arboreal primates (Ray and Butynski in press). The same general diet items were reported by Kingdon (1977) from Uganda's Bwindi National Park. Birds are also taken, and pangolin remains were frequently found in scats from the Ivory Coast's Tai National Park (D. Jenny pers. comm., in Nowell and Jackson 1996). In southern Sudan a female with two kittens was observed hunting bats as they swooped for insects feeding on fallen mangoes (Seth-Smith 1996 in Ray and Butynski in press). African golden cats have turned up in the diet of leopards, the only other felid to occur in African moist forest. African golden cat remains were found in five of 196 leopard Panthera pardus scats from Gabon's Lopé National Park (Henschel et al. 2005); a single carcass killed by a leopard was found in the Ituri (Hart et al. 1996).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Loss of habitat is an obvious threat to this species. Deforestation has destroyed suitable habitat and driven declines of prey species in large areas of the African golden cat range, particularly in West and East Africa (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Ray and Butynski in press). An additional threat stems from the bush meat trade, which figures largely in the region's economy, and is depleting populations of the prey base of the African golden cat. There appears to be little direct hunting of golden cats (Nowell and Jackson 1996). However, they may be trapped incidentally in wire snares: over the course of a three-month period at four sites in Lobeké, south-east Cameroon, 13 African golden cats were recorded killed by wire snares (T. Davenport, in Ray et al. 2005). Skins are sometimes found for sale in markets, for example in Yaoundé and Kampala where they are often sold alongside medicinal herbs and fetishes (T. Davenport, in Ray and Butynski in press). Skins may be used during circumcision rites or to wrap valuable objects, or as good luck charms for hunting success (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

African golden cats are known prey of Leopards (Henschel et al. 2005), and on a small scale avoid areas where Leopard are common (T. Gilbert in prep.). On a larger scale, in areas where Leopards have recently been extirpated, African golden cats seem to be more locally abundant (P. Henschel pers. comm.).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES Appendix II. Hunting of this species is prohibited in Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo, with hunting regulations in place in Gabon, Liberia and Togo (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

Key protected areas for the species include: Gola F.R. (Sierra Leone), Mount Nimba Strict N.R. (Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea), Sapo N.P. (Liberia), Taï and Comoé National Parks (Côte d'Ivoire), Gashaka Gumti N.P. (Nigeria), Korup N.P. and Dja Faunal Reserve (Cameroon), Lopé N.P. and Ivindo N.P. (Gabon), Odzala and Nouabale-Ndoki National Parks (Congo Republic) and Dzangha-Ndoki National Parks (CAR), Virunga N.P. (DR Congo), Queen Elizabeth and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks (Uganda), and Aberdares N.P. (Kenya) (Butynski and Ray in press).

There is a need for further survey work to acquire reliable population density estimates in various forest types, including disturbed habitats, in order to help better determine the population status across the range of the species.

Citation: Henschel, P., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C.& Sogbohossou, E. 2008. Caracal aurata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 October 2014.
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