African wildcat rehabilitation – Read more here

The African wildcat is a secretive nocturnal cat, of similar build and form to a domestic cat. Its populations however are quickly becoming threatened due to in-breeding with domestic cats. This cross-breeding of species is leading to the loss of pure blood wildcats and causing dilution of the wild gene pool.

Project aims:

Askari were offered the chance to rehabilitate 2 African Wildcats. Before being taken on, the cats received DNA testing to ensure they were 100% pure bloods. The brother and sister could no longer be cared for by their previous owner and while the female was hand-reared the aim of the project is to provide a habitat where they can return to the wild and spread their wild genes.

 What’s being done?

In June 2009 the 2 wildcats arrived on Pidwa. Each needed to first be placed in a holding boma to break its homing instinct. The decision was taken for the female to be at Askari as she may need more support and help having been hand-reared. Her brother was to be placed in a boma at Langa house. After a 1 month boma period each cat was released. In the coming days and weeks the female returned to Askari and the male to Brian’s house for support feeding. Within a few weeks, female Phelele fell pregnant and male Charlie disappeared for long periods at a time. This suggests he was also off finding a mate. While they may not always return to human habitation, the cats are now free to roam in the wild and pass on their pure genes.

 The role of volunteers:

 • Boma construction – Before arrival of the cats, holding bomas needed to be built. Volunteers took on a huge variety of tasks to construct a 12x4metre boma in the Askari garden. Poles were collected, painted and erected. Holes were dug for all these poles and cement made to set them. Wire meshing was placed around the perimeter and a netting roof placed on top. Doors were made and attached and the interior of the boma prepared with climbing trees and a drinking pool.

 • Boma feeding – Whilst in the boma the wildcat was fed dry cat food and dead chicks every day. The pond needed to be kept full and time spent with the cat to familiarise her to the new surroundings. These roles all fell under the duty of volunteers.

Other:

Such is the design of the boma, it can house an animal up to the size of a caracal. The boma project aims to provide a potential location for any future animals needed relocating or rehabilitating.

© Askari Wilderness Conservation Programme

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