FREEDOM AT LAST FOR BRENTON CARACAL "HOBBS"
It has been a long journey for Hobbs, the caracal rescued by Dr Wendy Tait from Brenton On-Sea. Found abandoned at a few days old, Dr Tait took the tiny cub into her home and used her veterinary skills to rear him. Realising the responsibility of raising a wild animal, Wendy started looking for a long-term safe home for Hobbs when he grew older. The plight of the caracal came to the attention of Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre who took over responsibility for Hobbs when he started to venture beyond the confines of Wendy's residence, scaring the domestic cats and dogs in the area. So Hobbs came to stay at Tenikwa Rehabilitation Centre where he was put through a process of rehabilitation to wean him off human company and prepare him for a life in the wild. Initially Hobbs battled to adapt to his new life without creature comforts, but he settled down after a few anxious weeks.
It was not a smooth journey, though. Hobbs was kept with another male Zippo and a female called Shu-Shu. A suitable release site at Camdeboo Game Reserve was found for the three caracals, but because Hobbs originated from the Garden Route, he was genetically too far removed from the Camdeboo area, and so was left behind when Zippo and Shu-Shu left for their new life in the Eastern Cape. Hobbs was then introduced to two female caracal cubs rescued from Keurbooms and he shared an enclosure with them for nearly a year, being exposed to minimum human contact.
A young male caracal entering adulthood can be more dangerous when he has no fear of humans, and Hobbs in particular became very confrontational towards humans. This eliminated several release sites as he needed to be released somewhere where he couldn't be dangerous towards humans. "If we could not find a suitable release site that met the safety criteria, Cape Nature had stipulated that Hobbs should go to a zoo",. said Mandy Freeman, co-owner of Tenikwa. "We were adamant that Hobbs deserved a chance to be free, and so we started evaluating potential Game Reserves that could possibly take Hobbs".
Gondwana Game Reserve, an 11 000 hectare predator-fenced game reserve just outside Mosselbay was highlighted and they were willing to give Hobbs and one of the young female caracals from Keurbooms a permanent home in their Game Reserve. A motivation was submitted to Cape Nature, who after an evaluation, agreed to the release.
On Thursday 25th November, Len and Mandy Freeman travelled down to Gondwana Game Reserve with their precious cargo of the two caracals, Hobbs and Brown Nose, who have now subsequently been released into a large boma to adapt to their new surroundings before being released onto the greater reserve.
"Wild animals belong in the wild", says Len Freeman of Tenikwa, "and we will continue to work tirelessly to give these displaced animals a second chance at freedom."
What to do if you find an abandoned caracal cub?
1. Sometimes the mother will hide the cub whilst she goes out hunting. Make sure the cub is really abandoned before you remove it. If in doubt, leave the cub where it is and check in 12 hours whether it is still in the same place. Phone us or Cape Nature for advice before you decide to remove it.
2. If the cub is in danger or you decide to remove it, throw a towel or blanket over it, pick it up, put it in a dark box and bring it to Tenikwa. Do not try to feed it or give it water to drink.
3. Even young cubs can give you a nasty scratch or bite. Don’t try to play with it, or comfort it. It is not used to humans and contact will increase its stress.
4. Please do not consider trying to keep the cub as a pet, even for a few months. Caracals are wild animals and can be very dangerous when adults. They are not suitable for pets and they will not get on with your domestic cats and dogs when they are grown up. Besides, you need a permit to keep a caracal in captivity, and it makes our job to get them back into the wild so much harder.