African Wildcat kittens caught in bush fire.

The first report of a run-away bush fire was received shortly after 03h00. From our office we could see the “monster” on the horizon and it was coming right in our direction.

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It was still quite some distance away, but we realised it was huge and the fire ran along at an amazing speed in the tree tops.  Our resource management team was called to get ready to do what we can to prevent the fire from reaching the reserve by assisting adjoining landowners to light back burns and clear fire breaks as fast as we could.  Our concerns were not just for our own wildlife but for the many other wildlife that most certainly be killed or injured  At the speed the fire was coming many animals; especially the smaller creatures had no hope to outrun it.  Their best option would be to find a warthog burrow or old termite mound and crawl inside and wait for the fire to pass.  However finding such a safe place is not always in reach.

It was shortly after day-break that the local farmers managed to get the fire under control and the exhausted teams were happy to be met with some of the farmer’s wives brining some coffee to site.  We were standing chatting when one of the farmer’s and his firefighting team drove up.  He called on us and took a cardboard box from the front of his vehicle.  Inside were three African Wildcat kittens.

The African Wild Cat, (Felis Silvestris lybica) is an indigenous species of wild cats of Africa. It is the ancestors of the domestic cat. They are widespread throughout Africa, but absent from the tropical rainforests and Sahara Desert. The main threat to the African Wild Cats is hybridising with domestic and feral cats.

The kittens were badly burnt and had it not been for the fast reaction of the farmer and his crew, all three would have been burnt to death.

The three kittens spent the next three months in the rehab centre where they were treated for burns, smoke inhalation and infection before being moved to a pre-release enclosure.

Their whiskers and eye lashes were gone and the pads of their feet were raw and very painful on arrival.  Although they lost the tips of their ears and tails, all three eventually made a full recovery and could be returned to the wild.

The damage done by fire to wildlife is not always so obvious and one needs to evaluate each case on merits if a decision is made to either put the burnt animal to sleep or try and save them.

These kittens were fortunate that someone cared enough to snatch them away from a raging bush fire.