Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Golden Cat.

At the end of last week, Aisling, one of the forest research staff took a group of volunteers into the forest for a dusk / night walk which are great for sighting nocturnal species. This time however, the group had a rather more exciting time. Aisling tells all below...

Our walk had started successfully with a sighting of three Small Eared Galagos (bushbabies), feeding in a tall tree. A few minutes later, we saw a further two Galagos rustling in the upper canopy. We had turned to walk back to the village when one of the volunteers noticed the glint of eyes reflecting in her torch light. I used the larger spotlight I was carrying to light the area where the eyes had been seen, expecting to see a suni which is a small, nocturnal antelope. To our absolute amazement it was not the light brown colouration of a suni we saw but instead a big cat! Approximately ten metres away in sparse undergrowth, we watched the cat, slowly stride deeper into the undergrowth and turn its head to look at us. With the brightness of the spotlight, the undergrowth being sparse and the cat being within close range, we were able to clearly see the whole body.

The cat had a HB (head body) measurement of approximately 1m. It was of a sturdy build, with strong legs and torso. The tail was not particularly long and had a dark colouration. The markings on the cat were very distinct, with large dark rosettes on a light background. The cat seemed unaffected by our presence, showing no change in behaviour or signs of agitation.

--------African Golden Cat--------

Once were returned to the house, we were all excited to identify the cat. The Serval, Caracal and Genet were species that have been seen in Shimoni East Forest previously but they did not match with what we had just seen. On seeing a picture of an African Golden Cat, we all agreed that it looked like the cat we had seen. On reading further about the Golden Cat behaviour and habitat, it further fitted the bill. Living in lowland forest zones also mangrove areas, feeding on duiker and monkeys and being most active at dusk and during the night. However, very little is known about population and distribution of the African Golden Cat and any previous research shows populations to only be in Western Kenya. We are now planning to take regular night walks, to identify tracks and footprints and hopefully prove that we have found a Golden Cat in Shimoni forest!!



Roisin Connolly said...

well done sister. Keep up the good work and tracking of the golden cat.