Inquisitive about small wild cats of Africa? This quick guide comes handy to know more about these elusive species on a game drive in Tanzania.
Excited to gaze at the cheetah chasing the gazelle, follow the leopard print up to the hills or feel amused at the lion feasting on its hunt? The notorious, small wild cats are elusive, appear glamorous and are sharp enough to catch prey in a single flight. Spotting these rare species during your Safari in Tanzania needs a combination of attentive eyes, luck and an understanding of their behavior. This quick guide comes handy just before you venture into your exotic wildlife experience.
How to Identify: The long upright and black ears of the caracal make it a distinguished cat, sensitive to movement and sound. With its mid-sized body and a quick pace, the caracal walks behind bushes and dried scrubs and is excellent at a surprise attack.
Features and Interesting Facts: The caracal can jump up to 3 meters high with its feet designed to ambush its prey, sometimes several birds, in a single swipe. Even with its average size, the caracal is brave enough to attack a bigger animal such as a baby Kudu or an adult Springbok. It is also often seen feeding or hares, antelopes and rodents. Caracals are nocturnal and can be spotted during the day when hunger strikes.
Habitat: Caracals are spotted around green forests; however they prefer drier areas such as woodlands and arid savannah regions such as The Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and the Mwiba Ranch.
How to Identify? This secret creature is highly observant. With streak black marks, furry body and long limbs its appearance is close to a cheetah except, that it has a longer neck, ears and thinner legs which enable it to jump 75 cm above the ground.
Features and Interesting Facts: The serval has strong sense of smell, sight, and hearing and walks carefully to identify prey both on the ground and underneath. It is often seen using its sharp claws exclusively while attacking its prey. The serval is extremely territorial and is spotted in a range of 12 to 20 square kilometers mark with its foot prints or urine scent. With its sleek body, the serval can easily climb trees and jump into the water. Recently their numbers have been declining with disappearing wetlands and demand of their fur in the black market.
Habitat: Servals are often spotted in wetlands and savannahs feeding on birds, fishes and frogs. Other common areas include bushes and tall grasses, often in the Ngorongoro Crater and the woodlands of Ndutu and Serengeti National Park.
How to Identify? Short grey fur on elongated body with black spots and round eyes are some typical features of an African civet. Their body is as long as a mongoose and their paws have unique claws that allow them to climb trees with great flexibility.
Features and Interesting Facts: Often known as cat like creatures, civets are better identified as small carnivorous animals that are spotted hunting and resting around trees. They are spotted wandering at night, foraging for a mix of plants and reptiles such as berries, fruits, lizards, frogs and snakes using its sharp teeth. Although solitary, these animals can be seen in groups of 10 during the mating season. The civet feces and musk is used to produce some of the most expensive coffee and perfumes respectively in the world.
Habitat: The African civet is commonly spotted in areas of thick vegetation and tropical forests with constant water source. The African Civet is commonly found in Southern Tanzania including Saadani, Mikumi, Selous and in the coastal region of the beautiful island of Zanzibar.
How to Identify? The Genet is commonly identified with its tail, as long as their bodies with a fox like appearance and a furry skin with dark thick patches which extend to its face and tail.
Features and Interesting Facts: The young ones are often born blind and gain eyesight after eight weeks and become sexually mature after two years. Secretive and shy, genets are sly hunters and can kill with a single bite on the prey’s neck. Their lean bodies allow them to quickly climb trees and their sharp claws help for a seamless attack rats, insect, birds and reptiles. They are often seen during the day or on pitch dark nights and can be traced with their footprints along tracks and streams.
Habitat: Genets are easy to spot on trees, in grasslands, forest and sub forest regions in the southern region of Selous, Lake Manze and Ruaha National Park. They have also been seen in some areas of Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater in the North. One of the popular lodges where you are very much likely to see them is at the Ndutu Safari Lodge especially while having your dinner, in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.