African golden cat (Profelis aurata)

The African golden cat is a medium sized cat weighing 5.3 - 16 kg. Taxonomy was initially confused by their wide variation in colour and spotting, leading scientists to believe they were multiple species. Initially, Felis aurata was described as reddish brown with faint spotting on the flanks and legs. Felis celidogaster was described as heavily spotted and slightly grey. In actual fact, the African golden cat has two main color phases, red and grey. They may have varying amounts of spotting ranging from nearly invisible tiny spots on the flanks to heavy spotting over the entire body. There has been a suggestion that there is an east-west gradient in spotting with individuals from Central and West Africa being more spotted. These phases appear to co-occur across their range, though only lightly spotted individuals seem to occur in Kibale. The African golden cat is most closely related to the caracal (Caracal caracal) and serval (Leptailurus serval) and is not related to the Asiatic golden cat (Pardofelis temminickii). 

Though closely related, the caracal prefers more open habitat and woodland while the African golden cat seems entirely restricted to forest (including logged forest). It is assumed that the species prefers primary forest but there is evidence that it thrives in secondary and logged forests, probably due to increased rodent densities. Except for the molecular studies establishing their phylogenetic relationships, the only other published studies on the species regards their diet. Scat analyses from three studies in Central Africa have shown their diet to consist mainly of small rodents (50-70%) as well as small forest duikers, monkeys and some birds. Around Kibale, the golden cat, is locally known as omwaga.

The species is currently listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, mainly due to its dependence on rapidly diminishing forest habitat. Deforestation and bushmeat hunting remain the greatest threats to the species, as exemplified by two snared golden cats found in Kibale and two cats with snare wounds.



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