08 July 2016

Caracal preys on African penguins in Simon's Town

Caracal caught on camera
SOUTH AFRICA – Camera surveillance has identified a caracal as the predator behind a spate of African penguin fatalities in Simon’s Town over the past two weeks.

The images confirming the large wild cat's presence were captured by trap cameras installed in the area by the City of Cape Town as part of its investigation into the deaths with Table Mountain National Park (TMNP).

"We are grateful to the City of Cape Town penguin monitors and TMNP rangers who worked day and night shifts over the past weekend, increasing their patrols and staffing observation posts to deter any further predations by this animal," said Councillor Johan van der Merwe, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy, Environmental and Spatial Planning.

The City considers natural predation by an indigenous animal part of the natural patterns and processes in the ecosystem – prey is not favoured above the predator. However, when a particular predator starts changing normal predation behaviour and kills more prey than what is required for feeding, there is cause for concern - more so if the prey species is listed as endangered and the number and frequency of the kills becomes unsustainable in the population. It places authorities in a difficult position where they need to consider the most viable and best option for the ecosystem as a whole.

"Although the City welcomes the confirmation of the presence of this naturally occurring predator on our coastline, the African penguin population is under threat and, as such, every breeding pair counts towards the future of the species," said Cr van der Merwe.

"In consultation with our partners, namely SANParks, CapeNature, and various caracal experts, we have decided to trap the caracal using standard methods. If successful, the animal will be collared with a radio tracking device and moved away from the penguin colony, but still within its current home range.

"Concurrently, the City will deploy other passive mitigation measures to discourage the return of the caracal to the Burghers Walk to Froggy Pond area. We will continue with ongoing monitoring in the area by means of camera traps and foot patrols and urge members of the public not to tamper with any of the equipment installed in the area which are intended to deter the caracal."

Learn more about caracals and their behaviour on the Cape Peninsula at Urban Caracal Project.

City acts to protect the endangered African penguins in Simon's Town [media release], 5 July 2016, Media Office, City of Capetown

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