Edition 47: Summer 2009
Jarrod Kyte, manager of Kicheche’s Mara Camp, writes to us about his inspiring encounter with a caracal and her cub in the Masai Mara.
Cats always play a big roll at Kicheche, but this past week has been one I shall not soon forget. First we discovered that Supu, our local leopard, has a gentleman admirer, which could mean more cubs if we’re lucky. More immediately, the gentleman caller could mean that Supa’s existing two cubs will leave home soon. It is definitely the right time for the boy to find his own patch, but the female is such a diminutive feline that she may struggle to survive without mum’s safety net.
The next memorable encounter involved the Kicheche lion pride in action. It wasn’t so much their aborting their chase of a large eland in mid-pursuit that was the story – it was why they did it. They saw her calf, which made a far easier meal. While the lions tucked into the baby eland, agonisingly, the mother could only watch.
However these two sightings were merely warm-up acts to the main event. Hearing a report from guests that a caracal and cub had been spotted at Bishop’s Lugga, I cancelled my plans for that afternoon and jumped in a vehicle to visit the spot where the sighting had occurred. Bishop’s Lugga is only ten minutes from camp, but the journey seemed much longer as I contemplated the possibility of seeing a cat I had never before encountered. The anticipation was in reality short lived as I spotted both mum and cub immediately upon arrival. The cub is probably no more than two months old and she immediately dived for cover, effortlessly disappearing in the tall grass. Her mother, however, seemed more than happy to stay in view, and gave me precious minutes to study her.
I can say without question she is the most striking cat I have ever seen.
With perfectly angled features and exquisite facial markings, she had the appearance and manner of a giant Siamese cat as she sashayed through the short grass. Her sharp, almond eyes shone like freshly minted gold sovereigns, and, allied with her large, distinctive black-tipped ears, made her hypersensitive to the slightest movement around her. She might not posses the superior strength of the leopard or the blistering pace of the cheetah, but in appearance the caracal is the embodiment of feline grace and beauty.
As the mother moved into the safety of some croton, I spotted the tips of the cub’s ears twitching nervously just above the tall grass where she was hiding. Chastised by mum for her sloppy camouflage, the pair slinked into the heart of the bush and out of sight.