African cats make great Aussie mates

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

THEY might look like slightly ex­otic house cats — but Kato and Kaia are Aus­tralia’s only cara­cals, a rare African preda­tor, and have been brought here to help save the species.

They have been spe­cially im­ported from South Africa by Ben Brit­ton, di­rec­tor of Wild An­i­mal En­coun­ters Foun­da­tion, to help pro­tect the species.

These two are just five months old but, fully grown, they will weigh in at 18kg.

These car­niv­o­rous cats hunt their prey us­ing light­ning-fast sprints at short dis­tances and can use their sen­si­tive ears to de­tect prey. Cara­cals are also ex­tremely ac­ro­batic, leap­ing 3m to catch birds on the wing.

Kaito and Kaia have been brought to the foun­da­tion to es­tab­lish the first breed­ing pro­gram in Aus­tralia and over the com­ing months will learn to hunt to­gether. Over the next few months, the pub­lic will have the op­por­tu­nity to meet the two new res­i­dents of the Hawkes­bury Con­ser­va­tion Cen­tre and learn about the work the foun­da­tion is do­ing to help pro­tect them.

Cara­cal num­bers are drop­ping rapidly in their na­tive habi­tats in North Africa and Asia.

“We want to show the smaller wild cats and the plight they’re un­der, giv­ing peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to come out, learn what a cara­cal is, and try and get peop le in­volved in cara­cal preser­va­tion,” Mr Brit­ton said.

Wild An­i­mal En­coun­ters’ new cara­cals Kaia and Kato, and (be­low) get­ting a cud­dle from Kahlia An­gus. Pic­tures: Gregg Por­te­ous

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