Sunday, May 4, 2008

African Golden Cat

African Golden CatA medium sized wild cat, the African Golden Cat is a reclusive feline of equatorial Africa. Profelis Aurata, the cat is believed to be closely related to the Caracal and Serval, though it is often termed as the Leopard's Brother owing to the co-existence of the two cats in certain parts of their range. Body length is usually around two and a half feet with a longish one foot tail. Adults weigh between twenty to forty pounds and reach a shoulder height of around one and a half feet. Males are larger overall.

Coloration of the African Golden Cat varies across its range from reddish brown to silver gray. Melanistic variants have also been recorded. It is even suggested that the fur may change color in a single individual over time and external influences. Head and body are often spotted whereas the underside is usually white. Tail is lined at its origin and ends in a black or brown tip. Head and ears are small and rounded. Legs are longish with somewhat oversized paws.

Strong and secretive felines, the African Golden Cats are crepascular in their activity profile. They often spend the day resting in tree branches. Hunting is primarily through the stalk and ambush method. Small animals including rodents, tree hydraxes and birds are usually taken, though reports of the cat preying on small antelopes, monkeys and hog have also emerged. In areas where human settlements are next to national parks, domestic livestock and poultry are also reported to be consumed by the cats.

African Golden Cat DistributionResiding in parts of Central and West Africa, the cats seem to prefer tropical rainforests with dense undergrowth. Two subspecies are recognized, based upon the African Golden Cat's distribution:

Profelis Aurata Aurata - Uganda to Congo

Profelis Aurata Celidogaster
- West Africa

Little is known about the exact behaviour patterns of the African Golden Cat owing to its reclusive lifestyle and limited research on it. Still it is believed to be a largely solitary feline. Males are thought to take an active part in parenting though. Gestation period is around two and a half months after which one to three kittens are born. The young grow quickly and gain maturity at one and a half years of age.

Even though not much is understood about the numbers in the wild of the African Golden Cat, the cat is classified as vulnerable. Principal threats include loss of habitat owing to deforestation for timber and loss of prey species to bushmeat hunting. Lifespan in captivity is believed to be upto fifteen years.

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