With only a few authentic records existing in Namibia, the endangered Black-footed cat is a species not commonly known to locals. “The animals are rare and do not compete well against other carnivores, therefore, they are found in very small areas where predator numbers are low,” emphasised Prof Hauptfleisch.
Areas mostly include private farmland, creating a precarious future for the animals, since the areas are not regarded as protected. “It was never expected that the cat could survive in such dry habitat, since other studies conducted took place on Southern African where rain was more prevalent.” he said.
Other studies also showed that these cats mainly feed on smaller reptilian animals, which he also considers to be a new fact of these small-spotted cats.
Hauptfleisch works closely with two Masters students in the FNRSS, Martina Kusters and Ndele Shipala, as well as fellow researchers from the Black-footed Cat Working Group. These nocturnal inhabitants are also known to be solitary and territorial animals, except when females care for their dependent kittens.
Being the smallest wild cat in Africa, with a head-to-body length of 35-52cm, their kittens often have a low survival rate. Additionally, many of the adult cats also succumb to a number of unnatural deaths.
“They are often mistaken for jackals or other small carnivores at night, so they are shot or even sometimes poisoned,” Prof Hauptfleisch went on to explain, while urging farmers to refrain from harming the animals. Auas Motors, the Canadian Cat Protection Society and the Naples Zoo in the USA, are some of the sponsors of the project.