Environment Writer

ROOI Els residents enjoying a quiet afternoon at home last Sunday were astonished to see a wild caracal standing in their garden staring at them through the sitting room window.

The next moment two caracal cubs came out of the shrubs and played around on the lawn.

Gerard Scholtz grabbed his camera and captured the unusual scene.

“It was about 5pm and she was standing about 3m from the window, watching us. She was calm and not very perturbed by our presence. Then her cubs appeared and gambolled about in the fynbos and across the lawn. They must have been there for at least 10 minutes before the cubs took the lead and left the garden.”

He said the caracal, or rooikat, had been seen by a number of people in Rooi Els recently.

“But all sightings were fleeting, until this one.”

Scholtz said someone had seen it recently carrying a dassie in its mouth.

However, it may be that the caracal is preying on more than dassies, as a number of pet cats in the area have gone missing.

Mark Johns, reserve manager for CapeNature’s Kogelberg Nature Reserve, said yesterday: “People in the area have been saying their cats have gone missing, so they are obviously preyed on, and it might be the caracal. Normally they eat small mammals, sometimes reptiles, also guinea fowl.

“I regularly see one pair on the reserve and one even came into my house and attacked a banana. I heard a clatter in the kitchen about 2am and it was gone – with the banana.”

Hettie Claassens, in whose garden the caracal family appeared, said she had not heard of any pet cats going missing.

“But in Rooi Els we are not partial to cats because they catch the birds. None of the permanent residents have cats.”

However, the missing cats may have been from Pringle Bay, she said, which was “more like suburbia”.