Biologists aren't certain how many African golden cats (Profelis aurata) remain in central Africa. The IUCN Red List places the the cat in the "Near Threatened" category, saying that there are probably around 10,000 or so left, though that is little more than an educated guess. People are more likely to have seen an African golden cat skin than a live animal; in fact, the cat had only been photographed once, in Congo. And there have been no studies of its social behavior, range or ecology.
Which makes the recent capture of three images of the cougar-like cat by a digital infrared camera trap in Kibale National Park, Uganda, all the more special. Yale anthropologist Gary P. Aronsen, who described his find in the African Journal of Ecology, had set up seven camera traps in the park. The only one that captured African golden cat images had been set up for two weeks in June 2008 along a game trail. Aronsen believes that all three images are of the same cat.
"For the most part, the cameras capture amazing images of elephants, monkeys, chimpanzees, duiker and buffalo. The cameras also can record movies, so you can see multiple animals in a group, such as chimpanzees," ....
The images were taken in an old-growth forest patch located within a place called Mainaro, which is a patchwork of old-growth, regenerating, and replanted forests, Dr Aronsen explains.
"Given that three images were captured within an old-growth patch, I'd say that the Kibale golden cats may prefer this habitat. But the range of any cat is large, and so they can go anywhere to hunt."
Aronsen hopes that finding the cat, a top predator, is a sign of the good health of the forest. Like many places, though, Uganda's forests are shrinking. The IUCN says that deforestation is the African golden cat's greatest threat.
What's worse, the African golden cat is only one of many threatened kitties worldwide; here are seven more.