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A team of scientists has captured the first-ever video of one of the least known and most elusive wild cats on earth – the African golden cat – hunting during daylight in Kibale National Park, Uganda.


This new footage shows an African golden cat hunting red colobus monkeys gathered around and feeding on the deadwood of a tree stump, and was recorded with a camera trap set by Samuel Angedakin, Kibale Project Manager for the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Pan African Programme: The Cultured Chimpanzee, in collaboration with the Ngogo Chimpanzee Project, Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology.


Further footage, this time of a golden cat sleeping in a tree, has been recorded by Yasuko Tashiro of the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University. The video was recorded in the Kalinzu Forest Reserve, Uganda, and shows monkeys surrounding the golden cat and harassing it until it descends from the tree.


The African golden cat is found only in the forests of Central and West Africa, and grows to the size of a bobcat, weighing between 5-16 kilograms. Very few western scientists have observed the living animal in the wild, and almost all records of the African golden cat consist of photographs taken by remote camera traps, or of dead animals (usually killed by local hunters).

A recently published review paper on African golden cats summarises the current state of knowledge of the species and provides preliminary results from two studies supported by Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organisation. Today, this forest-dwelling species is threatened across its range by intensive bushmeat hunting (the hunting of wild animals for meat) and loss of habitat due to deforestation.

Panthera is currently funding two Kaplan Scholars to carry out African golden cat studies in Gabon and Uganda. In 2011, Panthera’s Kaplan Scholar, Laila Bahaa-el-din, captured some of the first known footage of a wild African golden cat in Gabon. This exclusive footage was taken with cameras set as part of Bahaa-el-din’s graduate research with the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), which aims to understand how African golden cats are affected by different levels of human activity, such as logging and hunting, that are prevalent across forested Africa.

Kaplan Scholar and UKZN graduate student David Mills is also studying the species in Uganda’s Kibale Forest, where the golden cat is the region’s top predator since the local extinction of the leopard.

In 2002, a camera trap set by Panthera’s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Philipp Henschel, took the first wild photo of a living African golden cat. Dr Henschel is also credited with taking the first handheld photos of an African golden cat in 2003.

Kaplan scholar and graduate student, David Mills, explained, “It is an exciting and rare glimpse into the world of this fascinating cat. We know a lot more about golden cats than we did a few years ago and yet we still know almost nothing about their behaviour. Primatologists in Kibale have observed monkeys emitting alarm calls at golden cats on several occasions and, considering this latest evidence, it’s not hard to see why.”


Kaplan Scholar and graduate student, Laila Bahaa-el-din, added, “An adult red colobus monkey is a considerable opponent for an African golden cat. With the golden cat failing to make a fatal bite immediately on ambush, it had to make a hasty retreat.”

Bahaa-el-din continued, “Watching a golden cat in full ambush of large monkeys in this video provides hunting details we could previously only piece together from brief sightings. It also portrays nicely why monkeys might mob a golden cat, as can be seen in the unique footage of a golden cat trying in vain to catch a cat nap while precariously perched in the fork of a tree.”

The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology’s Pan African Chimpanzee Programme consists of 40 research sites across tropical Africa where researchers utilise camera traps and other research techniques to document ecological parameters of chimpanzee populations across their geographical range. Panthera recently signed an MOU with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology to collaboratively share data and records of African golden cats and other rare felids, as part of Panthera’s ongoing efforts to assess and improve the conservation status of threatened felids across Africa.

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