Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Louise Visits South Africa

Why controlling the feral cats at Sun City resort in South Africa is important to saving African Wildcats in the wild.
    
-- Written by Louise Holton, ACR President and Founder

In December, I was fortunate enough to visit my family in South Africa for a family reunion! We visited the Pilanesberg Game Reserve to see all the incredible wild animals South Africa is famous for. Every day was more spectacular than the day before. Herds of elephants, giraffe, white and black rhinos, crocodiles and hippos. And of course many beautiful, graceful antelope, grazing peacefully on the lush green grass. South Africa has 29 antelope species, more than anywhere else in Africa. Lots of wonderful rain had recently fallen, a lifesaver for the land, the animals and the people. Our party also saw many of the lion populations that live there, plus cheetahs, and leopards, and some of our party saw a serval one morning being chased by a lion. The serval ran off into the bush. 

Photo Credit: Sun International
Sun City, a world famous casino and vacation resort, is right on the border of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, where African Wildcats live. Some years ago, while the ACR staff was on a recon mission to find out about the plight of the African Wildcat, our cats’ ancestor, we saw some feral cats at one of Sun City’s many outdoor restaurants. So we made contact with the wonderful, caring Angie, who has been instrumental in taking care of Sun City’s feral cat population over the last few years. Angie, with few resources, has managed to trap and spay and neuter (along with the help of some marvelous veterinarians) some 160 feral cats. She has placed many of them in new homes, taken some into her own home, and helps to feed and care for many of the cats who call Sun City home.

Of course on the first evening at our villa in the reserve, who should visit me but none other than a feral cat!  Angie and I talked about the ever- growing population of feral cats in the reserve and we made contact with the Manager, and hopefully Angie will be able to do a TNR project in the Game Reserve. This is very important for the survival of the African Wildcats that still life in the reserve. Feral cats mix and breed very easily with the Wildcat. The concern is that they dilute the gene pool and in some areas of South Africa more hybrids exist than pure Wildcats.

Angie of Sun City (right) and her TNR helper.
ACR has a plan (supported in full by the University of Pretoria Veterinary School and by many biologists and scientists) to buy a Mobile Spay Clinic and donate it to the University. The students accompanied by veterinarians can then go into remote areas where African Wildcats still survive and we can get all the local stray and feral cats sterilized. This is the only way to ensure the survival of the Wildcat. 

Up to now, the smaller wildcats of the world have not received much attention. Bigger cats such as tigers and cheetahs get some attention, but the smaller cats fall through the cracks. Things are changing now and small amounts of money are being spent on some research, but more needs to be done if we are to save the African Wildcat from extinction.

There are an estimated 10,000 pure Wildcats still living in South Africa, so we must work fast! For more information on the African Wildcat and how you can help, please visit our website.

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