Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cats of Africa - Luke Hunter

Cats of Africa - Luke Hunter


Africa's cat species give one paws for thought 


April 13, 2006


By Samantha Bartlett


Photography: Gerald Hinde Struik


The thing that blows your mind when you first pick up this book is the photographs. Man, are they gorgeous!


Gerald Hinde, former car salesman and photographer extraordinaire, and Luke Hunter, a conservation biologist with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, got together to produce an amazing study of Africa's 10 cat species.


This is so much more than a pretty coffee table book, though.


It is a solid, well researched and realistic look at the wild cat conservation position right now, and the more chilling prospect of where it'll be by mid-century.


No African cats are under immediate threat of extinction but, as Hunter observes, the continent has the fastest growing human population on earth and these felines' territory is shrinking at an alarming rate.


He makes the point that every one of the continent's wild cat species is in need of immediate conservation, because "more than at any time in history, the fate of Africa's wild cats is in our hands".


For most people, when they think of Africa's cats, only the big three come to mind - lions, leopards and cheetahs.


Slightly less familiar are the Caracal, the African Wildcat and the Serval. The remaining species, however, are almost as much of a mystery as they were two decades ago 



Very little scientific research has been done on the African Golden Cat, the Jungle Cat, the Sand Cat or the Black-footed Cat, and few people have ever laid eyes on them.


The African Golden Cat cuts a majestic figure. It can grow up to 11kg and is white and sandy, with penetrating pale eyes. Its range is mostly the forested equatorial belt, but other than that, not much is known.


As far as the Sand Cat is concerned, appearances are deceptive. It is a small, fluffy feline which looks as though it should be curled up on a couch. Instead, it is at home in the desert, inhabiting regions where rainfall is less than 20mm per year.


The Black-footed Cat is another case of dynamite in a small package. It looks like a tabby and grows to around 2.5kg, but is hardy and tough.


My favourite of the small felines is the Jungle Cat, which is only nominally African. The edge of its habitat is Egypt, then spreads across Asia. It is the second long-haired wild cat and can reach a hefty 9kg.


Hunter has divided this book into chapters dealing with, among others, evolution, social systems and threats and conservation. Cats of Africa is interesting, beautiful and a prize on any bookshelf.


For the cats,


Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

Sign our petition here:


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