Something a little different for this blog post… meet the absolutely stunning African Wild Cat of Satara!
African wild cats don’t have the fame of their bigger safari cousins and are an uncommon sighting. The best way to see one is usually on an organised night drive but even then they tend to be extremely skittish. The best I’ve ever really seen of a wild cat is a flash of the eyes reflecting in the game vehicle lights before dashing off very quickly - so not much to report!
The plains of Satara are famous for their cats - lions, cheetahs and leopard are all frequent sightings here - but these open lands are also excellent for African wild cat.
In dry season, the sparser grass cover increases the chances of seeing one before sunset plus, rather excitingly, there are a few that sneak under the fences of the Satara Rest Camp to scavenge and chase birds.
So I naturally set out on foot to find one! It really didn’t take long before I encountered this wild cat near the fence - she was initially on the outside but then used a small gap behind some bushes to come into the back of the camp.
She was wary of me to begin with but got used to my being just four or five metres away. I couldn’t believe it - these cats are usually nocturnal and very skittish so to be crouching so close to this wild animal with just enough light to get photos was far beyond my expectations!
And wow was I absolutely thrilled with the results - these images are definitely amongst the best photos of wild animals that I’ve ever taken. Check this beauty out…..!
African wild cats are distant cousins to the tabby domestic cat that was domesticated in the Middle East and North Africa some 10,000 years ago. It is classified as a sub-species of the domestic cat so hybrids are possible, but make no mistake - the African wild cat is truly a wild animal.
The fur patterns are usually predominantly grey with all manner of brown, black and reddish markings and patches. Seeing the wild cat up close and before dark, it was immediately apparent how much bigger than a domestic cat it is too - the body is longer and the legs much taller.
Any cat owners will be unsurprised to learn that the African wild cat is an opportunistic carnivore, pouncing on small mammals (such as rodents), birds, lizards, frogs and a range of larger bugs and invertebrates. Fruits may also occasionally be eaten to supplement the diet.
They are highly territorial, particularly with members of the same sex. While territorial ranges do overlap with individuals of the opposite sex, ‘company’ isn’t much tolerated unless for functional breeding activity!
Wild cats are susceptible to predators, including larger cats such as leopard and caracal, plus wild dog and spotted hyena. Rock python and some other snakes also present a serious risk but the nocturnal nature of the African wild cat largely protects it from attack from martial eagles and the other largest raptor species.
Wild cats are adaptable to different habitats but require some sort of shelter to hide in during the day, so rocky outcrops, bush, tall grasses or abandoned burrows may all be suitable. Such places are found throughout Kruger so it is a common species in terms of population, but sightings nevertheless remain rare and (usually!) restricted to night drives.
A noticeable difference versus the domestic cat is that the African wild cat is very much a terrestrial species and is rarely seen climbing any trees or other man-made objects.
This little photo-profile of the African wild cat of Satara also mirrors some of the content that will be found in the KrugerExplorer App we are developing. This blog format is of course quite different to how we will present things in the App but I hope it gives a little flavour of the image and content quality of what we are building!
Here's one more to finish...
Sadly my 7 Weeks in Kruger trip is drawing to a close and I’m into the final days (the blog posts are somewhat behind!)
I’ll keep updating over the holiday season though and we’ll also be much more active on Facebook and Instagram again once I'm home, sharing images of Kruger taken by followers as well as our own content.
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Danny & Charlotte
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