Tiny feline is Africa’s smallest wild cat
Prospect Park Zoo hopes to breed the cats to contribute to the species survival
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Brooklyn, NY – Nov. 29, 2017 – Black-footed cats (Felis nigripes), Africa’s smallest species of wild feline, is now on exhibit at WCS’s (Wildlife Conservation Society) Prospect Park Zoo.
Also known as small-spotted cats, black-footed cats are endemic to the arid open savanna and grassland regions of southern Africa primarily in Namibia and South Africa.
Currently, there is a male on exhibit in the nocturnal section of the Prospect Park Zoo’s Hall of Animals. A female will eventually be introduced for breeding as part of the black-footed cat Species Survival Plan (SSP), a cooperative breeding program designed to enhance the genetic viability of animal populations in zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The female is not yet on exhibit, but will be sharing the exhibit space with the male once they are introduced.
“Our hope is to breed these cats to contribute to the survival of the species while educating our guests about a beautiful yet vulnerable cat species that is unknown to most people,” said Denise McClean, Director of the Prospect Park Zoo.
Although small in stature, weighing only 3-4 pounds, black-footed cats are formidable hunters. They are nocturnal and hunt birds and rodents at night. Their large eyes enable them to see well in the darkness and their spotted coat provides camouflage against the brush. Unlike many cat species, black-footed cats are not good climbers. In the wild, they will repurpose abandoned termite mounds and other animals’ burrows for shelter.
Black-footed cats are largely solitary and rarely seen in the wild. The species is classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which estimates there are fewer than 10,000 mature individuals remaining in nature. The species is threatened by habitat loss usually through overgrazing by livestock which leads to a decline in prey species populations and den sites. They also are killed through poaching and indiscriminate trapping often targeting other species.