- A project to protect caracals is being rolled out along Cape Town roads.
- The reflective artworks aims to raise awareness among motorists.
- Around 60 caracals live on the Cape Peninsula, concentrated on Table Mountain.
A series of reflective wild cats are lighting up Cape Town streets, to create awareness of caracals among Cape Town drivers.
The #ReflectiveRooikatte artworks, which have steadily been popping up around the Mother City, aim to remind motorists of one of the city's lesser-known residents: the caracal.
Caracals, also known as a "rooikat" or "lynx", are found in most nature reserves that have natural fynbos. They are also found in estates and vineyards in Cape Town - often unknown, due to their elusive natures.
The Cape Peninsula is home to an estimated 50 to 60 caracals, with the population concentrated around Table Mountain National Park.
"Caracals are the largest remaining predator on the Cape Peninsula and as such has become the 'apex' predator in the area, playing an important role in ecosystem stability," said the Urban Caracal Project's Gabriella Leighton.
A project to protect caracal is being rolled out along Cape Town roads. The reflective artworks aim to raise awareness among motorists. A project to protect caracal is being rolled out along Cape Town roads. The reflective artworks aim to raise awareness among motorists.A project to protect caracal is being rolled out along Cape Town roads. The reflective artworks aim to raise awareness among motorists. Bryan Little/ Public Shows of Reflection
Because caracals need large, connected, wild spaces and plenty of prey, they can play an important role as an umbrella species.
"In this way, what we learn about conserving caracals also contributes directly to conserving other species where they occur. In urban areas like Cape Town, where natural areas are shrinking and fragmenting at an alarming rate due to looming development threat, it is more important than ever to protect remaining wildlife and the ecosystems on which they depend," explained Leighton.
The #ReflectiveRooikatte artworks are part of a collaborative project called "Public Shows of Reflection". Led by artist Bryan Little, the series was put together with Leighton and Dr Jacqueline Bishop of the Urban Caracal Project and UCT's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa.
The first of the artworks was installed in December, with several installed since around seven hotspots. Little is also currently doing crowdfunding to secure funds for more artworks.
"Vehicle collisions are a major threat to wildlife in urban areas. Being hit by cars is the most common cause of death for caracals around Cape Town, causing over 70% of all caracal mortalities we have recorded," said Leighton.
"The sheer volume of traffic on busy Cape Town roads means that they are almost always going to encounter a car, but they are nevertheless forced to cross roads to find prey, patrol their territories and look for mates. If they are crossing often, the chances of getting hit unfortunately increases, and most caracals do not survive car collisions."
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Researchers at the Urban Caracal Project pick up roadkill on an almost monthly basis, sometimes once a fortnight.
"Using each animal's location data we have been able to identify roadkill hotspots and wanted to do something proactive to highlight, educate and hopefully help mitigate this issue," Leighton said.
Living on the urban edge brings various threats to these carnivores, she added.
"Along with cars, the main risks they face are exposure to disease and pesticides. We previously reported that 90% of caracals here are exposed to toxic rat poisons and we are also now detecting other environmental pollutants associated with human landscapes," explained Leighton.
"On top of these issues, Cape Peninsula caracals are also attacked and killed by domestic dogs and end up in poachers' snares. This multitude of threats means we must do as much as we can to reduce sources of mortality where possible to ensure caracals remain on the Peninsula for years to come."