Whenever you ask about the cat species you can view when game viewing in Kenya, you will only hear about the lion, cheetah or leopard. This is understandable since they are the biggest of the wild cats in the Kenyan wild. However, like all narratives, the Kenyan jungles have three beautiful yet rarely known members of the cat family. These three individuals are not only a sight for sore eyes, they also play a huge role in the wild ecosystems. Here is a brief introduction to the 3 least known cats of Kenya’s wild.
The first time you spot a serval, you will be confused at whether it is a baby leopard or tiger. Then you will remember that tigers are not found in Kenya and you will be more confused. The mix-up comes from the coat pattern of this exceptional cat. It has a base of golden fur beautifully covered in well-patterned stripes and spots. The stripes appear from behind the head to its shoulder and at the bottom part of its legs. The spots cover the rest of its body apart from its underbelly, which is pure white. Servals are solitary animals that are active both day and night. They are much smaller than lions or cheetahs but are bigger than a domestic cat. An adult serval can grow up to 24 kilograms in weight. They live in long grasslands near water bodies where they can easily hunt but also hide from prey. You can spot this intriguing cat in the wilds of Maasai Mara.
Second on our list is the amazing Caracal. This cat is more populous in Kenya compared to the serval. It can be spotted in different national parks such as the Maasai Mara, Tsavo and Mt. Kenya. Caracals are nocturnal animals that can weigh up to 18 kilos in adulthood. They are sometimes confused for lynxes. However, caracals have no mark whatsoever on their soft and shiny reddish-brown coats. They however have black ear tufts and distinct white markings on their face. Caracals thrive in low-rain areas but not in deserts. Like servals, they like places with adequate covering. They hunt rodents as well as large animals. They climb very easily and well often using tree barks for claw scratching. The territorial animals is also solitary and very secretive as described by most animal researchers.
African Wild Cat
The African wild cat looks very similar to some species of the domestic cat family. They however have thicker fur coats and bushy tails. The African wild cat is found throughout Kenya including the Nakuru National Park. It likes high and rocky habitats where it can easily hide from predators. Due to its small size (4 kilos as an adult), the cat can be an easy target for larger predators. It is a sharp hunter with very specific hearing skills that can exactly locate prey without having sight of it. African wild cats are territorial though solitary. They appear in groups only during mating or when a mother has its kittens.
All three of these cats are marked of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.