When someone embarks on their safari journey they expect to see a generic set on animals so they can tick off another box on their bucket list: Lion, Leopard, Cheetah, Elephant, rhino etc. What people don’t know is that there are other animals that are even more rare and in some peoples opinion an even greater sighting. Due to their secluded nature and their tendency to stay away from humans, we hardly ever see the small wild cats of Botswana, but when one is spotted it is truly a sight to behold. In this article we will look at some of these incredible felines, starting with the African Golden cat.
The African Golden cat is usually found across more northern parts of Africa, such as Senegal and Congo, however it has been viewed in Botswana on the rare occasion. The African Golden cat is roughly twice the size of a large house cat and its colours vary between shades of terracotta and golden orangey-yellows. Melanistic (completely black) and albino (completely white) variations of this cat also exist but in both cases are so incredibly rare that the odds of viewing one are infinitesimal. Viewings of these cats are spread over all destinations in Botswana, even if they are sparse.
The Black-footed cat gets its name for the black pads on its paws. They are smaller than a house cat, however they are much more accomplished predators. They hunt mainly on small rodents and birds, but have been knows to take down pheasants (as shown in the picture) and even cape hares, which are larger than the Black-footed cat. Due to their decreasing numbers and their extreme rarity, hunting these cats is illegal in Botswana. If you do see the Black-footed cat, then consider yourself very lucky. These small cats are found in the middle to lower regions of Botswana, most viewings around the Khutse game reserve.
Next on the list is the African Caracal. They are easily distinguished by the unique tufts of jet black hair on the tips of their ears. These felines are lean, yet muscular cats and are known for their unparalleled dexterity. Caracals are able to pounce upwards and snatch birds right out of the air, sometimes even two at once! They mostly hunt by stalking their pray, by lying flat on the ground they can conceal themselves very well. Their stalking ability coupled with their talent for climbing makes them the most effective predator of rock hyraxes (agile rock dwelling rodents) on earth.
Last on our list is the Serval. It is an incredibly unique looking cat due to it having the largest length to height ratio, as well as a small head for its body. These cats are opportunistic predators that are known to hunt birds, rodents, reptiles, small mammals and even fish. There is a relatively large number of melanistic Servals, their pitch black coat making them look like miniature panthers. Servals are only found in the Northern regions of Botswana, the camps that they are most likely to be seen are those within the Okavango delta.