Small black cat sighting in central Kruger National Park

Artist Peter Hall was on a game drive in the central regions of Kruger National Park in South Africa, reports the EarthTouch News website. A “game drive” is one in which the participants sit in 4×4 vehicles looking out at the animals in the park. On this occasion Peter Hall noticed a small black cat. The cat was not much larger than a domestic cat but a bit more lanky and slender as you can tell from the photographs.

Small black cat in Kruger National Park
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Small black cat in Kruger National Park. Photo: Peter Hall.

It was an unusual sighting because the cat he saw did not fit into any known species, on record, in terms of appearance. So what sort of small cat was this? The experts are saying it could be either a African wildcat hybrid or a melanistic purebred African wildcat. They favour the former assessment.

In other words, they think this cat is the product of a mating between an African wildcat and a domestic cat, and I guess that the domestic cat was probably black. Melanistic wildcats are ones which carry a genetic mutation which causes their coat to become near black. Often leopards and jaguars carry this genetic mutation which is why they are called black panthers when they’re melanistic.

But, the African wildcat is not known to be melanistic. There have been no known cases as far as I’m aware of purebred black African wildcats either from the south or the north of the continent. If it was a melanistic African wildcat it would be a unique animal. This is perhaps why the experts say that it is far more likely to be a hybrid. Wildcat hybrids are very common in Africa because community cats living in villages mate with wildcats which are near the villages. It’s almost bound to happen.

There is a third possibility which hass not been mentioned which is that this is a black, genuine feral cat who has wandered into the interior of Kruger National Park. It seems possible to me. Limpopo is on the borders of the park and there is a substantial administrative centre in the park called Skukuza. However, I have never visited this beautiful place and perhaps people who have might say that it’s impossible for domestic cats to be present at Sukuza or for a feral cat to wander from Limpopo into the park. There are camps in the park where visitors can stay. I don’t know of the possibilities of a domestic cat living at one of those camps and then wandering off into the grasslands (veld). It just needs to be mentioned as a possibility it seems to me.


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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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