Two months ago, FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre NPO, Gauteng, received a young, male Black-footed Cat. He was discovered as a kitten near Magaliesburg and raised to the point where an experienced rehabilitation and release process was needed.
This species is Africa’s smallest felid and their status is listed as vulnerable. Because of this species’ rarity, much thought and planning has gone into their release.
In the past, we have successfully released 3 individuals, one of which went on to breed with a wild male and produced 2 kittens. We are fortunate enough to have the guidance and support of Dr. Alex Sliwa who is the leading authority on this species worldwide. From a scientific viewpoint, genetic samples have been taken from the cat to add to the database of information being collected on the species. This was facilitated by the National Zoological Gardens veterinary hospital’s Dr. Angela Brun. Some of these samples are being stored at the National Research Foundation’s BioBank. Responsible rehabilitation of wildlife includes post-release monitoring which tells us how the animal is managing, hunting, interacting, etc. To achieve this, we have fitted a telemetry collar to the cat. Once this was done, the cat was moved to his pre-release enclosure on the Telperion Nature Reserve which offers ideal habitat. He will stay inside this enclosure for a couple of months to acclimatize to the sounds, smells and sights of the new territory. Then he’ll be released, support–fed as needed and monitored daily. FreeMe and Dr. Sliwa are very excited about this special release project involving another of these rare cats! We’re hoping to gain new information and glean new insights into the species’ behaviour and build on the knowledge of the rehabilitation and release process of young Black-footed Cats.