African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata)
Full body photo of an African golden cat in Gabon
Trail camera photo taken by Laila Bahaa-el-din / Panthera
Image source (modified) CC BY_NC-SA 2.0

The African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) is one of the three medium sized African wild cats. It occupies the central African forests whereas the Caracal ranges over the more arid regions and Servals occur in the moister habitats. African Golden Cats have been little studied but with ongoing deforestation and the bush meat trade in central Africa, this cat is likely increasingly threatened as it's habitat and prey species disappear.

Caracal Lineage

1. Caracal (Caracal caracal)

2. Serval (Leptailurus serval)

3. African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata)

Key Facts about African Golden Cats

~ Fur lies forward on neck ~

~ Very few studies ~

~ Endemic to Africa ~

African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) Classification

African Golden Cats belong to the genus Caracal and the taxonomy or scientific classification of the African Golden Cat species is:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Caracal

Species: Caracal aurata (African Golden Cat)


C.a. aurata

C.a. celidogaster


The scientific name for the African Golden Cat is Caracal aurata which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

African Golden Cat Classification Diagram
Click the chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.

Side view of a grey hued African Golden Cat by Laila Bahaa-el-din

African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) Subspecies

The last Felidae taxonomic revision in 2017 proposed the same two subspecies that have been recognized in the past, although further research is required:

1. Caracal aurata aurata - East and Central Africa (minimal spotting on coat)

2. Caracal aurata celidogaster - West Africa (distinct spotting on coat)

African Golden Cat Conservation

The conservation status for African Golden Cats is Vulnerable (VU), and these forest dependent cats are highly threatened by forest clearing and bushmeat hunting in central Africa.

The following organizations are involved in wildlife research and conservation in Africa. Their efforts to secure tropical forest habitats for primates and other endangered forest species will also help conserve forest habitat for the vulnerable African Golden Cat:

African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) - Tropical Forests

African Parks - Saving Wildlife

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - Africa projects

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

Past Projects:

African Golden Cat trail camera image by Laila Bahaa-el-din

African Golden Cat walking through forest by Philipp Henschel

African Golden Cat Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on African Golden Cats:

African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) Research

Here is a list of papers published on African Golden Cats. Click on the title bar to view the abstract and the link to the article.

Both leopard Panthera pardus pardus and African golden cat Caracal aurata occur throughout the Congo Basin and coastal forests of Central Africa. However, there remains a paucity of documented occurrences of these species within the region.

Here, we document both species in the Dja Faunal Reserve DFR, Cameroon from images captured in a camera trap survey. This represents the first confirmed occurrence of leopard for 18 years and the first documentation of African golden cat within the reserve.

Bruce, T.; Ndjassi, C.; Lebreton, M.; Wacher, T.; Fowler, A.; Mbobda, R.B.T.; Olson, D.
African golden cat and leopard persist in the Dja Faunal Reserve, Cameroon
2018  Cat News (68): 24-25

• African golden cats are not as naturally rare as previously thought.
• Their population densities decrease with increasing human disturbance.
• The species is particularly susceptible to wire snares, used for bushmeat hunting.
• Managing timber concessions as part of conservation estates is crucial for wildlife.

Africa's equatorial forests are threatened by widespread deforestation and bushmeat hunting, with both threats spreading into formerly remote areas due to rapid human population growth and large-scale expansions of commercial resource extraction such as logging and mining, as well as forest clearing for agriculture. Many globally threatened species are endemic to these forests, but the potential effects of these threats are not well understood.

Using the case of the forest-dependent African golden cat, we assessed the potential effects of disturbance including logging and hunting on population density.

We applied spatially-explicit capture-recapture models to camera trap data to estimate density across a human land-use gradient at five sites in central Gabon. We found density was highest at a pristine, undisturbed site (16.23 [± 5.84 SE] individuals per 100 km²) and lowest at a village site with moderate levels of mostly subsistence bushmeat hunting (3.8 [± 2.23 SE] individuals per 100km²).

Logging concessions can support important densities of the species (10.18 [± 3.54 SE] and 12.84 [± 4.25 SE] individuals per 100 km²), with the higher estimate of the two for the concession certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) versus the non-certified concession.

While protected intact forests are the main strongholds for golden cats, well-managed logging concessions may also play an important role in the conservation of golden cats and other threatened species. 

Bahaa-el-din, L.; Sollmann, R.; Hunter, L.T.B.; Slotow, R.; MacDonald, D.W.; Henschel, P.
Effects of human land-use on Africa's only forest-dependent felid: the African golden cat Caracal aurata
2016  Biological Conservation (199): 1-9

1. The African golden cat Caracal aurata is endemic to tropical Africa. It is one of the world's least-studied felids and is considered rare in most of its geographic range. The status of the African golden cat in the wild has never been rigorously assessed, but the species is increasingly threatened by habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation, and by unsustainable hunting.

2. We describe the African golden cat and review its taxonomy, distribution, ecology, behaviour, threats and conservation status. The information presented here is based on the literature and on new data from the first two intensive field studies on the species (underway in Gabon and Uganda).

3. The golden cat is phenotypically variable. Within the two main colour morphs, golden/reddish-brown and grey, there is wide variation and intergradation. Both of these morphs occur throughout the species' range. Melanistic and chocolate brown morphs also occur but are uncommon.

4. Recent genetic analysis indicates that the golden cat is closely related to the caracal Caracal caracal, and it has, therefore, been changed from the genus Profelis to Caracal.

5. The golden cat is predominantly terrestrial and cathemeral. Its diet consists mainly of rodents and small ungulates.

6. Field studies in Gabon and Uganda have established that golden cats can be locally common. They are prone to capture by wire snares, however, and are absent in forests hunted at commercial scales.

7. Species-focused camera trap surveys are effective for collecting distribution, abundance, population structure, ecological and behavioural data on golden cats.

Bahaa-el-din, L.; Henschel, P.; MacDonald, D.W.; Mills, D.; Slotow, R.; Hunter, L.
The African golden cat Caracal aurata: Africa's least-known felid
2014  Mammal Review (45): 63-77

View more articles on Caracal aurata in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group database (scroll down once the library page is loaded to see the list).

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