The Black footed cat is one of the least studied cats in Africa, and was listed as Vulnerable in 2005. This is the smallest of the African cat species, with males only weighing up to about 2.5 kg in weight. Females are a little smaller and weigh up to about 1.7 kg in weight. The body length, including the tail, is about 60cm long for the males, and females being a bit smaller at round about 54cm.
Only the pads and the under parts of the feet are black in colour, and this is where the animal gets their name from. The colour differs from cinnamon to tawny and has patterns of black or brown spots that merge to become rings on the legs. They have very large eyes and their ears have a rounded look to them.
They live in dry, open savanna, grassland and Karoo semi dessert areas going up to altitudes of 2 000m above sea level. So this means that they are mostly found in South Africa, Namibia, a little bit into Zimbabwe and has been recorded in Botswana in the past.
Black footed cats are solitary and strictly nocturnal, making it very rare to see. They spend their daytime hours in old borrows or hollows. Unlike most cats, they are not very good climbers, their stocky bodies and short tails make it difficult for them to climb.
These small cats are very territorial, stretching from 10km2 for females and up to 25km2 for the males. Territories are marked in many different ways, like sent marking and rubbing their heads against objects. Females are only in estrus for two to three days, so males need to locate them very quickly. Females can have two litters a year, averaging about two kittens per litter. Kittens weigh about 80grams at birth but grow up quickly, reaching sexual maturity at about one year of age.
They hunt mostly small rodents and bird, but can bring down prey heavier than themselves, like the Cape hare. Insects and spiders are also prey, but only form about 1% of their diet.
Story by Stefan (River Lodge)
After a lovely morning game, drive my guests wanted to be a bit more adventurous out in the African bush and asked if we can go out on a bushwalk. After assessing the weather and situation, we decided that the conditions were good enough for a walk. We proceeded to the vehicle and I gave my standard briefing in which I always mention that the walks are there to have a look at the smaller aspects of nature, and not to see how many of the Big 5 animals we can encounter, as this is obviously a risky situation at best.
We set of into the middle of the reserve to one of my favourite walking areas and it didn’t take long before we started to find some amazing little things. One of the most interesting being a matrimonial dung ball rolled during the previous rainy season, an artefact one comes across very rarely in this good of a condition. After spending some time explaining the making and purpose of the dung ball, we continued along the single animal trail cutting through the Knobthorn and Marula thicket. The wind started to pick up a bit and I decided to change direction to keep the wind in our favour. Barely 100m after this decision, we noticed tracks heading in the same direction as what we were walking, and not just any tracks – we were following the same pathway as the king of the jungle, or at least 8 kings and queens of the jungle.
We spent a bit of time talking about the possibilities and risks involved having these mighty animals in the area, but being a rather hot day and a watering hole no more than 500m away from us, my tracker and I were convinced that the lions were sleeping in the cool sand next to the water, and with the direction of the wind we were completely hidden from their senses. We gave the guests another briefing, just to ensure that everyone knows what we are about to attempt and exactly how we were going to do so.
We were about 60m away from the water’s edge, when a baboon gave an alarm call which made everyone stop dead in their tracks. After a couple of minutes, we could see the big male baboon sitting guard in a big Jackalberry, but he was not barking at us – he wasn’t even looking in our direction – his eyes was set on something else, something at the water. Thanks to the help from the baboon, we had an even better idea to the location of the big cats so we decided to widen the walking circle and came towards the water at a bigger angle. Moving through the bushes as quietly as we possibly could, we came to an opening overlooking the dam, and there in the shade we saw them – 8 lions having a late morning sleep in the cool sand. The wind suddenly changed direction and one of the younger lions picked up our scent. He nervously started to look around and this behaviour created a chain effect with the rest. Using the cover we had to our advantage, they were able to smell us but not see us, so before that changed we decided to back out of the area and make a loop back to the vehicle, along the way continuing to look at the smaller aspects of nature.
We don’t go looking for the big animals on walk, but it is a treat to be able to view these magnificent animals on foot. It always makes you realise how small we actually are, and a little bit of adrenalin has never been a bad thing.
Story by Piet (RiverLodge)
One evening, while out on a night drive, we were fortunate enough to see our biggest pride of 13 lions. There was quite a commotion and they seemed to be concentrating hard on whatever they were doing. They seemed to be teasing a honey badger. We watched in awe as the battle continued for almost an hour. Honey badgers are notorious for being quite feisty, and full of bravado, as well as being strong and tenacious. There have been reports of them fighting with buffalo and male lions, and they do tend to bite at the scrotum of the enemy.
In the Kalahari, a honey badger was bitten by a very venomous snake (a Cape Cobra). The Honey Badger was out for a few minutes, before it got up and moved off.
Our lion pride eventually gave up the fight that night, as they could see they were fighting a losing battle.
Story by Clive (River Lodge)
In my opinion, the most beautiful time of the day is just when the sun is coming up, over the horizon, when the world is waking up to the first rays of sunshine. I haven’t been at Kapama long, but even the sleepiest guests seem to appreciate the colours that the sun paints over the bush.
We drive through the bush, and guests are so excited at every animal we pass. One of my most memorable drives to date has to be when we came across a large herd of buffalo. I really enjoy watching these animals, who in turn watch us as we take photographs of their magnificent horns and visiting ox-peckers. As my guests were in awe of just how massive the herd was (it just seemed to keep growing and growing with every turn we made), my tracker, Alfie, suddenly told me to stop and reverse. He had spotted something in the tree, just above some very curious buffalo. As we followed their gaze, we spotted Alfie’s favourite (and the one of the most notoriously difficult to find) animals – a leopard. Every time we see one of these precious animals, he gets just as excited as the guests do (admittedly, so do I, but he is like a child who has just been given a chocolate bar). The leopard didn’t seem too bothered by the rather large beasts below her, and was more concerned with her catch of the day – a young warthog that she had dragged up the tree.
As we watched her, she suddenly became quite anxious, and decided to make a break for it. With cameras clicking, and flashes flashing, down the tree this beautiful animal came, and ran away faster than we could keep up! At the same time, the buffalo had gotten such a fright that they bolted in the opposite direction… Quite a wonderful site – like a mini great migration with buffalo, instead of wildebeest! We decided to keep track of the leopard instead, who we eventually tracked down, laying flat under a tree. Her meal long forgotten, she paid us no mind as she dozed sleepily. My guests were ecstatic! They had never chased an animal through the bush and after a round of applause for Alfie and his keen eyes, they tried to get me to follow some wandering impala through a Knobthorn thicket.
We wound down with some coffee before heading back, and there was much excitement and big smiles as the guests compared photos.
As we drove through the now well-lit bush, my eyes took in all the different colours of the trees, grasses, animals and birds that seemed to look brighter and more alive with every passing moment, and with every ray of sunshine that covered them. Everyday, I wake up and remember just how lucky we are because we live in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Story by Angie (River Lodge)