The African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) distribution is primarily across the tropical forest habitat of equatorial Africa.
The geographic range is from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the west, through the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to a minimal distribution in Uganda and Kenya in the east.
Currently two subspecies are described - one in East & Central Africa and the other in West Africa, divided by the Congo River.
African Golden Cat Distribution in Africa
African Golden Cats occur in 14 African countries mainly in western and central Africa (IUCN Red List):
North Africa: absent
West Africa: Côte d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone
Central Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, DR Congo, Gabon
Southern Africa: absent
African Golden Cat Subspecies
The last taxonomic revision of the Felidae cat family in 2017 proposed the same two subspecies that have been recognized in the past, although further research is required:
East African Golden Cat - Caracal aurata aurata - East and Central Africa (minimal spotting on coat)
West African Golden Cat - Caracal aurata celidogaster - West Africa (distinct spotting on coat)
For the full classification of this wild cat see Caracal Lineage - Caracal aurata Classification, previously described as Profelis aurata.
African Golden Cat Habitat
African Golden Cats are specialist carnivores restricted to the rainforests of central Africa, and are the only forest-dependent feline of the ten African cats. They are one of the three medium sized African cats that are closely related and predate on similar prey types, however each cat occupies a different habitat and niche, thus avoiding competition.
- Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Lowland
Vegetation types of secondary importance are:
- Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Mangrove Vegetation Above High Tide Level
- Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane
Where to see African Golden Cats in Africa
All of the medium to smaller cats are very difficult to spot in the wild. Many are nocturnal or crepuscular and rarely seen during the day. The best chances are to visit the national parks or local nature reserves of each country within their distribution, and go on the early morning and late afternoon to evening game drives.
iNaturalist is a global citizen science platform where people can post their sightings of animals in the wild. Identification is verified by other members and subsequently conservationists and scientists use this data in their important work.
If you have been lucky enough to spot one of the smaller cats in your travels, no matter how long ago, please upload your images to the platform and thus help with research and conservation of this species.
Here are links to view the sightings that have recently been posted:
(Note there are also images of dead animals if you are a sensitive viewer.)
Another excellent resource if you are planning a trip to Africa is the Mammal Watching website. Comprehensive trip reports and mammal lists are posted by travellers that focus on observing the mammals of the world. Check out the trip reports listing African Golden Cats in their sightings checklist as well as some stunning photos.
African Golden Cat Video - Nigeria
Elusive golden cat attacking a pangolin by Act for Wildlife.
"Camera traps set up by our project in Nigeria have captured rare footage of the elusive African golden cat attacking a pangolin in the Gashaka Gumti National Park, home to our Gashaka Biodiversity Project. It is the first time Africa's golden cat has been caught on camera in the area."
African Golden Cat Videos - West and Central Africa
African golden cats by Chimp and See.
"The African golden cats (Caracal aurata) are small wild cats living in the forests of West and Central Africa. The fur coloration varies from grey to reddish-brown and melanistic (black) individuals are also known. Our camera trap footage shows some variations."