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First record of the African golden cat in Central Uganda

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During preliminary research for a survey to determine the species that inhabit the Mpanga Central Forest Reserve in Uganda, the African golden cat Caracal aurata has been recorded with a camera trap. This is the first record of the African golden cat in this reserve and the region of Central Uganda. More research on the population size, threats, conservation needs, and distribution is recommended.
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ISSN 1027-2992
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N° 74 | Winter 2021
CATnews 74 Winter 2021
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TIM E. R. G. HUIJSMANS1, GASTON L. M. HUIJSMANS1, IVI L. M. HUIJSMANS1 AND AS-
SUMPTA NAMUWONGE1
First record of the African
golden cat in Central Uganda
During preliminary research for a survey to determine the species that inhabit the
Mpanga Central Forest Reserve in Uganda, the African golden cat Caracal aurata has
been recorded with a camera trap. This is the first record of the African golden cat in
this reserve and the region of Central Uganda. More research on the population size,
threats, conservation needs, and distribution is recommended.
Fig. 1. Map of the research area, Mpanga Central Forest Reserve
in Central Uganda (Google Maps).
The African golden cat is classified as Vul-
nerable by The IUCN Red List of Threatened
SpeciesTM (Bahaa-el-din et al. 2015a). It is also
included in CITES Appendix II (CITES 2021). It
is endemic to the forests of Equatorial Africa,
but there are no confirmed records from Gam-
bia, Guinea Bissau, Togo and Benin. This sug-
gests that there are two disjunct populations.
One inhabits West Africa, and the other one
is partly located in West and partly in Central
Africa. The population is threatened due to
bushmeat hunting, wire-snares, deforestation,
and the construction of roads, which causes a
decrease in prey animals. Unfortunately, the
population trend of the African golden cat is
declining (Bahaa-el-din et al. 2015a, b). The
African golden cat has been recorded in mul-
tiple conservation areas in Uganda. Previous
records have been made in the Bwindi Impe-
netrable National Park and Kibale National
Park, both in the region of Western Uganda
(Mills et al. 2011, Mugerwa et al. 2013).
Study area
The Mpanga Central Forest Reserve
(0°12'32.90'' N / 32°17'35.33'' E) is a moist,
semi-deciduous forest of 4.5 km². It is located
in Central Uganda within the Lake Victoria
climate zone. The forest is classified as a
lowland forest. The altitude varies between
the 1,140 and 1,200 m above sea-level (Tay-
lor et al. 2008). The mean annual temperature
in Mpigi District, in which the forest reserve
is located, is 22.8°C, with mean monthly
temperatures ranging between 21.5°C and
23.1°C (World Bank Group 2021). The total
annual average precipitation in the zone of the
Mpanga Central Forest Reserve is 1,250 mm
(Ministry of Water and Environment Uganda
2014). The Celtis mildbraedii, Aningeria altis-
sima and Trilepisium madagascariense form
respectively the most important main canopy,
seral and understorey vegetation in the Mpan-
ga Central Forest Reserve (Taylor et al. 2008).
Methods
The research has been conducted by setting
camera traps ad random on active animal
trails in the forest. During this preliminary
research only 2 cameras where used. The ca-
meras were running 24 hours a day. The Pir
sensing distance was up to 25 m and the trig-
ger speed 0.3 s. After a trigger the cameras
were set to make 1 picture. Every 10 days the
cameras were relocated. The cameras where
placed 50 cm above the ground. The prelimi-
nary research has been conducted between
14 May 2021 and 1 September 2021.
Results
The record of the African golden cat has been
made on 11 July 2021, the 116th camera trap
day. This has been the only record of the
African golden cat during the preliminary re-
search.
Discussion
The closest populations of African golden cats
inhabit the Kibale National Park and Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park. The air distance
between these parks and Mpanga Central For-
est Reserve is 200 and 312 km, respectively
(Mills et al. 2011, Mugerwa et al. 2013). The
national parks are separated from each other
by several roads, cropland, and grassland
(ESA 2016). There is no corridor between the
parks. More research is required to determine
the population size of the African golden cat
in Mpanga Central Forest Reserve and Cen-
tral Uganda in general. This research will be
beneficial for conservation purposes and for
monitoring the whole population of African
golden cats.
Acknowledgements
Special thanks to all the Faunawatch volunteers
who are involved in this project, Mpanga Central
Forest Reserve and the National Forestry Authority
of Uganda.
References
Bahaa-el-din L., Henschel P., Butynski T., Macdo-
nald D., Mills D., Slotow R. & Hunter L. T. 2015.
The African golden cat Caracal aurata: Africa's
least-known felid. Mammal Review 45, 66–77.
Bahaa-el-din L., Mills D., Hunter L. & Henschel
P. 2015. Caracal aurata. The IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species 2015: e.T18306A50663128.
https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.
RLTS.T18306A50663128.en. Downloaded on 10
November 2021.
Fig. 2. African golden cat pictured in Mpanga Central Forest Re-
serve, Uganda (Photo Faunawatch Foundation).
short communication
CATnews 74 Winter 2021
11
CITES. 2021. Appendices I, II and III. CITES: https://
cites.org/eng/app/appendices.php (Accessed
22 October 2021).
ESA. 2016. CCI land cover - S2 prototype
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ERROL DE BEER1, JUSTIN RHYS NICOLAU2 AND LUKE T. B. HUNTER3*
First record with physical evi-
dence of the African golden
cat from Angola
There are significant gaps in understanding the distribution of the African forest en-
demic, the African golden cat, Caracal aurata. Although Angola is included as a range
country for the species, we know of no material record. Here, we document the first
record with physical evidence of the species, from a bushmeat vendor in Uige Pro-
vince, northern Angola.
the golden cat in Angola but it actually has
minimal value for establishing the presence of
the species there.
Here we document the first unequivocal evi-
dence of the golden cat from Angola. The
specimen was a dead animal being sold as
bushmeat by a roadside vendor in Dombe-
ia-Gola village (8°01'59.3" S / 14°59'24.9" E:
Fig. 1) seen in May, 2018 by two of us (EDB
and JRN). The individual was a mature, adult
male of the grey morph with bold belly spot-
ting and no other distinct markings (Fig. 2).
The cat was freshly killed. The vendor indicat-
ed it had been taken in the area, approximate-
ly 20 km north-west of the village.
We cannot be certain that the golden cat was
hunted locally but all the evidence strongly
suggests this was likely. The location was
a very small and relatively remote village of
fewer than 100 households located approxi-
mately 240 km due south of the border with
DR Congo, and 210 km north-east of the An-
Fig. 1. Northern
Angola, showing
Dombe-ia-Gola vil-
lage and putative
range of the African
golden cat (grey).
Only Angolan pro-
tected areas (green)
inside the species’
putative range are
shown.
The African golden cat Caracal aurata (here-
after golden cat) is endemic to forested Africa
where it occurs in two disjunct populations se-
parated by the dry Dahomey Gap. The species
is rarely observed directly and there are large
gaps in the understanding of its occurrence,
particularly at the range limits which are fre-
quently based on no confirmed observations.
Among such deficits, Northern Angola is usu-
ally included in the range (e.g. Bahaa-el-din
et al. 2015). This is based principally on the
presence of forest with the assumption that
it represents suitable habitat for golden cats,
and the presence of other mammal species
typically associated with Guineo-Congolian
forest (Rodrigues et al 2015). However, there
are no unequivocal records from the country,
including the exclave of Cabinda Province. The
species is not included in Hill & Carter’s (1941)
inventory of Angola’s mammalian fauna, nor
are there any material records in Taylor et
al’s (2018) exhaustive compilation of Angolan
mammal records from the Global Biodiversity
Information Facility, published literature and
recent (2015–2017) collections. Van Mensch
& van Bree (1969) provide a comprehensive
list of museum specimens and published loca-
tional records including one from Bembe, An-
gola, reproduced from Slacter (1860). Notably,
that record refers only to a single skin in trade
originating ‘from the interior’. Bembe was a
major centre for mining for the Portuguese
colonial government during the 19th Century,
and acted as a trade hub for a vast region
extending well into present-day DR Congo
(Monteiro, 1876). To our knowledge, Slacter’s
skin is the only first-hand, published record of
Ministry of Water and Environment Uganda. 2014.
Uganda Second National Communication to
the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/resource/
docs/natc/uganc2.pdf (Accessed 22 October
2021).
Mugerwa B., Sheil D., Ssekiranda P., Heist M. &
Ezuma P. 2013. A camera trap assessment of
terrestrial vertebrates in Bwindi Impenetrable
National Park, Uganda. African Journal of Eco-
logy 51, 21–31.
Taylor D., Hamilton A. C., Lewis S. & Nantale G.
2008. Thirty-eight years of change in a tropi-
cal forest: Plot data from Mpanga Forest Re-
serve, Uganda. African Journal of Ecology 46,
655–667.
1 Faunawatch Foundation, The Netherlands
*<timhuijsmans@faunawatch.org>
short communication
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
The African golden cat Profelis aurata is a little known felid endemic to Africa's tropical forests. The golden cat is very poorly known but is currently the subject of two related studies in Uganda and Gabon, the first focused research efforts on the species. We conducted three systematic camera trap surveys in Kibale National Park, Uganda, and obtained 63 photographic captures of African golden cats at frequencies ranging from 0.53 to 1.35 captures per 100 trap days. We identified variation in capture rates between sites for golden cats and other species that warrants further investigation. These results will contribute to our ongoing research as we investigate golden cat ecology in the role of apex predator, intraguild interactions with other forest carnivores and responses to anthropogenic influences.
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We placed camera traps for a month at sixty locations in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to determine the species composition and distribution of medium-to-large terrestrial vertebrates. A total of 15912 images were recorded from 1800 camera trap days. These provided a total of 625 and 338 camera events when filtered by hour and day, respectively. Twenty mammal species were recorded from 594 and 314 camera events by hour and day, respectively. Four bird species were recorded from 31 and 24 camera events by hour and day, respectively. The African golden cat Profelis aurata Temminck was recorded from 27 and nineteen camera events by hour and day, respectively. The black-fronted duiker Cephalophus nigrifrons Gray was most frequently photographed with 179 and 65 camera events by hour and day, respectively. Analyses reveal two species possessed a significantly interior-biased distribution. One species showed an edge-biased pattern. Five species were detected to have significantly biased altitudinal distributions with higher elevations. Distance to park edge and elevation can significantly influence species distribution. The selective use of the park limits the area that each species utilizes, with implications for maximum population sizes and viability. Our observations provide a baseline for long-term terrestrial vertebrate monitoring in Bwindi.
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Full-text available
Variations in the composition and structure of mid-altitude, semi-deciduous topical forest in a 0.64-ha plot in Mpanga Forest Reserve, Uganda, are described for a 38-year period to 2006. Repeat surveys of trees in the plot with a girth ≥30 cm at reference height in 1982, 1993 and 2006, following a baseline survey in 1968, indicate only relatively minor fluctuations in density, Shannon diversity, evenness, basal area (BA) and estimated above ground biomass. The largest trees [diameter at breast height (dbh) > 40 cm] and main canopy taxa (e.g. Celtis mildbraedii) accounted for the largest fraction of BA. Mortality was the highest amongst taxa classed as early seral, understorey and/or in the smallest size category (dbh = 9.5–20 cm), while new recruits were predominantly understorey taxa. Only one tree was recorded as felled for human use between the surveys of 1968 and 1993. In contrast, a considerable increase in anthropogenic disturbance was evident at the time of the 2006 survey, and illegal logging now poses a substantial threat to future resource availability and carbon storage in what was for a time one of the most protected areas of forest in Uganda.
CCI land cover -S2 prototype land cover 20m map of Africa
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ESA. 2016. CCI land cover -S2 prototype land cover 20m map of Africa 2016. http://2016africalandcover20m.esrin.esa.int (Accessed 22 October 2021).
Uganda Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
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  • Environment Water
  • Uganda
Ministry of Water and Environment Uganda. 2014. Uganda Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. https://unfccc.int/resource/ docs/natc/uganc2.pdf (Accessed 22 October 2021).