The Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden in Roodepoort (Gauteng, South Africa), in cooperation with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the North West Province through the Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism as well as Gauteng Nature Conservation, have embarked on a pioneering camera-trap project to capture images of largely nocturnal animals in the wilderness/natural area of the Garden. High tech infra-red cameras are used to reveal what goes on in the animal world under the cover of darkness.
A Serval cat was the first animal to be recorded through this technology in the Garden and, according to Dr Harriet Davies-Mostert, Head of Conservation Science at Endangered Wildlife Trust, this is the first sighting of this cat species in Gauteng!
This project would later be rolled out to a wider area in the western parts of Gauteng towards North West. It would greatly assist in monitoring the extent and number of some threatened animal species that have been thought to be extinct in the area.
This Botanical Garden was founded in 1982, but has been a popular venue for outings since the 1800's. The Garden has been voted the best place to get back to nature in Gauteng for 9 years in a row and is one of my favourite places to regularly visit.
The natural vegetation of the area is known as the 'Rocky Highveld Grassland' and consists of a mosaic of grassland and savannah, with dense bush in kloofs and along streams. The variety of habitats accommodates over 600 naturally occurring plant species.
A breeding pair of majestic Verreaux's Eagles nest on the cliffs alongside the waterfall. The Garden is home to an abundance of wildlife with over 220 birds species recorded on site. There are also a number of reptiles and small mammals, including small antelope and jackals, which occur naturally in the Nature Reserve.
A Serval is a medium-sized, slender, African wild cat with long legs and a fairly short tail. It is nocturnal and hunts mostly at night, unless disturbed by human activity or the presence of larger nocturnal predators. Although it is specialized for catching rodents, it is an opportunistic predator whose diet also includes birds, hares, hyraxes, reptiles, insects, fish, and frogs. DNA studies have shown that the serval is closely related to the African golden cat and the caracal.
They are commonly found in savannah where there is plenty of water and they occur in most parts of Africa, with the exception of Central Equatorial Africa, the very southern part of the continent, and the Sahara region. These cats prefer bushy areas, tall grass and dry reed beds near streams and are also found on high altitude. They can live up to 20 years in captivity according to some sources. Servals’ spotted coats are sometimes marketed as young leopards or cheetahs and can attract a hearty price on the black market. This, as well as the Serval’s tendency to attack poultry, makes it a target for hunters. Consequently they are no longer found in heavily populated areas, yet, as nocturnal animals, they may still be around though not in greater numbers.