The African golden cat (Caracal aurata)

The African golden cat (Caracal aurata) is a rarely seen creature of the west African forest: it is widespread in western Uganda, where it has been recorded in every forested national park except Semliki National Park.

The African golden cat is a wild cat endemic to the rainforests of West and Central Africa. It is threatened due to deforestation and bushmeat hunting and listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. It is a close relative of both the caracal and the serval. Previously, it was placed in the genus Profelis. Its body size ranges from 61 to 101 cm (24 to 40 in) with a 16 to 46 cm (6.3 to 18.1 in) long tail.

African Golden Cat uganda

The African golden cat has a fur color ranging from chestnut or reddish-brown, grayish brown to dark slaty. Some are spotted, with the spots ranging from faded tan to black in color. In others the spotting pattern is limited to the belly and inner legs.

Its undersides and areas around the eyes, cheeks, chin, and throat are lighter in color to almost white. Its tail is darker on the top and either heavily banded, lightly banded or plain, ending in a black tip.

Cats in the western parts of its range tend to have heavier spotting than those in the eastern region. Two color morphs, a red and a grey phase, were once thought to indicate separate species, rather than color variations of the same species. Grey skins have hairs that are not pigmented in their middle zones, whereas hair of red skins is pigmented intensively red. Hair of melanistic skins is entirely black.

Skins of African golden cats can be identified by the presence of a distinctive whorled ridge of fur in front of the shoulders, where the hairs change direction.

It is about twice the size of a domestic cat. Its rounded head is very small in relation to its body size. It is a heavily built cat, with stocky, long legs, a relatively short tail, and large paws. Body length usually varies within the range of 61 to 101 cm (24 to 40 in). Tail length ranges from 16 to 46 cm (6.3 to 18.1 in), and shoulder height is about 38 to 55 cm (15 to 22 in). The cat weighs around 5.5 to 16 kg (12 to 35 lb), with males being larger than females.

Overall, the African golden cat resembles the caracal, but has shorter untufted ears, a longer tail, and a shorter, more rounded face. It has small, rounded ears. Its eye color ranges from pale blue to brown.

African Golden Cat uganda

The African Golden Cat occurs mainly in primary moist equatorial forest, although on the periphery of its range it penetrates savanna regions along riverine forest. It also occurs in montane forest and alpine moorland in the east of its range. It can be seen in all western-Uganda national parks except in Semuliki NP.

Rodents and squirrels are the main prey item on a African golden cat, followed by small and medium-size duikers (antelopes). There have been several observations by primate researchers of African Golden Cats hunting arboreal primates. The same general diet items were reported by Kingdon (1977) from Uganda’s Bwindi National Park. Birds are also taken, and pangolin remains were frequently found in scats from the Ivory Coast’s Tai National Park (D. Jenny pers. comm. in Nowell and Jackson 1996).

African Golden Cats have turned up in the diet of leopards, the only other felid to occur in African moist forest. African Golden Cat remains were found in five of 196 Leopard Panthera pardus scats from Gabon’s Lopé National Park (Henschel et al. 2005); a single carcass killed by a Leopard was found in the Ituri (Hart et al. 1996).

Ref: Bahaa-el-din, L., Mills, D., Hunter, L. & Henschel, P. 2015. Caracal aurataThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T18306A50663128.