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20 penguins killed as caracal swoops near Boulders Beach

05 July 2016 - 18:40 By TMG Digital

A caracal has killed 20 penguins near Boulders Beach in Simon's Town.The wild cat‚ believed to be a young male‚ has been photographed by trap cameras during its evening raids on the colony of endangered African penguins.It has made four visits‚ each of which has resulted in between three and 10 penguin deaths‚ and now the City of Cape Town is trying to capture it and move it away from the penguin colony‚ at the same time attaching a radio-tracking device to the animal.The mayoral committee member for the environment‚ Johan van der Merwe‚ said other "passive mitigation" measures were being used to discourage the caracal from returning to the area between Burghers Walk and Froggy Pond."We will continue with monitoring by means of camera traps and foot patrols and urge members of the public not to tamper with any of the equipment installed in the area‚" he said.The caracal's raids have taken place in the past fortnight‚ and staff from the City of Cape Town and Table Mountain National Park have stepped up patrols to deter further attacks.Said Van der Merwe: "Although the city welcomes the confirmation of the presence of this naturally occurring predator on our coastline‚ the African penguin population is under threat and‚ as such‚ every breeding pair counts towards the future of the species."Natural predation by an indigenous animal is considered part of the natural patterns and processes in the ecosystem and the prey is not favoured above the predator."However‚ when a particular predator starts changing normal predation behaviour and kills multiple individuals – that is more than what is required for feeding – there is cause for concern. More so if the prey species is listed as endangered and the number and frequency of the kills becomes unsustainable in the population."The management authorities are then placed in a difficult position and need to consider the most viable and best option for the ecosystem as a whole."Van der Merwe said that in consultation with SANParks‚ CapeNature and caracal experts‚ a decision had been made to trap the caracal.Council environmental compliance officer Arne Purves said attempts had begun to catch the caracal in a walk-in baited trap.In June‚ a leopard killed 33 endangered African penguins in less than 15 minutes in the Stony Point nature reserve in Betty's Bay...

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