Cat House

Nancy Vandermey, Author
South Africa Trip October/November 2013 part 4

On November 4th we were all packed up and ready to go at 5:25, 5th in line. There wasn't much until a few km before Craig Lockhart (which the first 3 cars missed), this blond male lion walked up the valley floor with an entourage of jackal His companion roared high on the ridgeline We guessed correctly that he was headed to the waterhole KTP Video has 15 short clips, including this lion

Next up was this beautiful brown hooded kingfisher on the first loop Some mixed game at the waterhole The same African wildcat Just below Kamqua we found a female cheetah (we think the same one as hunted unsuccessfully yesterday). She started to stalk some springbok, but went out of sight. KTP Video has 15 short clips, including this cheetah

A martial eagle sat nearby We headed down to Twee Rivieren, seeing a lone wildebeest And an oryx herd in the dunes We checked into chalet #1 for our last night in KTP. We talked for a while with the Dutch family we had been running into regularly, they were also leaving tomorrow. It was very hot. We headed out again at 15:30, seeing the usual (jackal/oryx/gnu/springbok/raptors). We sat at Kij Kij for a while, with oryx, jackal, wildebeest, a light phase tawny eagle and sandgrouse. Heading back south, we found some meerkat And then the Dutch family pointed out some lions up on a hill Heading in, we gave a ride to someone with a broken fanbelt. The car wasn't there the next morning, so they must have fixed it after hours somehow. We had actually planned to just head out in the morning, but knowing those lions were just at Leeuwedril we decided to run up there first instead. The Dutch family did as well, we all watched as 7 total lions (5 females, 2 cubs) posed on the dunes and played. KTP Video has 15 short clips, including these lions

A black headed heron was also nearby Our final KTP picture was of the eagle owl nest We left the park at 7:15 am. Unfortunately this time we did see roadkill bat eared foxes on the trip south. The weaver nests on the utility poles must cause issues! We stopped in Upington at the Pick N Pay, exchanging the second bottle of conditioner for shampoo (between the water in KTP and using body wash instead of shampoo, my hair felt like straw at this point). It was probably around 11 when we left Upington, so we made good time to arrive in De Aar by 3 pm, with a 2 night reservation at the De Herberg lodge. After a shower and our first email check in 10 days, we headed south to Taiboschpoort to meet the black footed cat research team (see web site The leopard tortoises on the gravel rods were huge! Black footed cats are the 7th felid species native to South Africa (the others are lion, leopard, cheetah, caracal, serval, and African wild cat), and by far the least known. We made a habit of asking all the South Africans we encountered if they had ever heard of this cat, and the only ones who had were the rangers who had field guide training. Not too surprising, as this cat only weighs 2-5 pounds (1-2.5 kilo) and is only active at night. The majority of Americans can't name all the cats native to our country, either (bobcat, cougar, Canada lynx, ocelot, jaguarondi, jaguar)

The black footed cat research group (BFCG) is an international, interdisciplinary team of biologists, zoologists, and veterinarians. They radio collar the cats to learn about distribution, territory sizes, hunting patterns, prey species, and denning behavior. The veterinarians collected samples to assess overall health and exposure to diseases from the local semi feral cats.

We had a beautiful sunset to view The research team headed out to look for cats while we napped. At 1 am on Nov 6th they came back, with a black footed cat in a carrier! They had already radio collared her, but she was slow to wake up from the anesthesia so they brought her back to the farm. She was much more alert, so we headed out with 4 of the team to release her back in the den she was caught in. The team named her "Mozi" because the mosquitoes attacked them as they were capturing the cat. Releasing her into the den, covered by a blanket, with trail cameras in place The AAZK chapter of EFBC's Feline Conservation Center was donating a Reconyx trail camera to the BFCG to aid in their research. It caught great pictures of Mozi leaving her den as soon as we left the area We then did a night drive on the research site, Nuwarsfontein farm. We found an aardwolf and also saw steenbok, springhares, and cape hares. Then we used tracking equipment to locate a previously collared cat known as Ilsa. She has had a collar for a few years, so she is used to being followed. However tonight was a first as we followed her on foot rather than in the vehicle, Dr Alex Sliwa and the two of us walked in circles in a field from 2 to 3 am as we watched her hunt. Our lightweight handheld spotlight was a big hit, everyone on the team wanted one! On our way back to the farm we checked on Mozi and she had moved 400 m. We returned to Taiboschpoort at 4 am, Eric and I then drove back to our lodge and slept for a few hours. At 14:00 we returned, the team had caught several semiferal cats to check for diseases and vaccinate them. The plan had been to recapture Ilsa to replace her collar as the battery was low, but she was deep in a den somewhere - no signal could be found. We hung out and talked for a few hours, checking out a locust admiring the BFCG photo display and marveling at the leopard-sized caracal that had been killed on the ranch Dr Sliwa with a tiny radio collar And looking for Ilsa's signal The landscape, typical black-footed cat habitat We could have gone out again that night with the team but we had a long drive the next day, so we said goodbye and had a nice dinner at the lodge.

Part 1 - Planning and Kgalgadi: Twee Rivieren
Part 2 - Kgalgadi: Urikaruus and Kalahari Tented Camp
Part 3 - Kgalgadi: Nossob, Grootkolk, Mata Mata
Part 4 - Kgalgadi: Twee Rivieren and Black Footed Cat group
Part 5 - Kruger: Berg En Dal and Skukuza
Part 6 - Kruger: Nwatimwambu Walking Trail and Lower Sabie
Part 7 - Kruger: Satara
Part 8 - Kruger: Sweni Wilderness Trail
Part 9 - Kruger: Olifants
Part 10 - Kruger: Tamboti and Biyamiti
Part 11 - Notten's Bush Camp