Northern Cape Game and Nature ReservesThe Benfontein Nature Reserve
Benfontein Nature Reserve, which lies near Kimberley in the Northern Cape, roughly 430km from Johannesburg, is the one place in the country where you can see Africa's smallest cat - the black-footed cat. But you will have to do your sightings at night as the black-footed cat is strictly nocturnal.
Little bigger than a house cat, the Black-footed cat, Felis nigripes, is Vulnerable and has been so since 2002. Endemic to southern Africa and found mainly in South Africa, Namibia and marginally in Zimbabwe, it lives in open savanna, grassland and Karoo semi-desert. It spends its days resting in dense cover or the vacant burrows of hares, porcupines and aardvarks, only to emerge after sunset.
Benfontein Nature Reserve is not only the best place in the country to sight this little cat, but it is also the world's leading research facility on the aardwolf (earth wolf) or maanhaar jackal – which belongs to the same family as the hyena.
Visitors can see these animals largely due to the work of scientists at Benfontein and nearby Dronfield Nature Reserve (both owned by De Beers). To do so, you will need to request a guided night drive. As well as the black-footed cat and the aardwolf you can hope to see the bat-eared fox, black-backed jackal, aardvark, porcupine and caracal – other nocturnal animals present in the reserve.
Benfontein radio-collar the black-footed cats so that they can track them, otherwise they would be virtually impossible to see, particularly as they remain largely solitary.
Benfontein is also well known as a birding destination with a long list of bird species that includes the African fish eagle, sociable weavers, larks and pipits. And the African white-backed vulture is one of a few raptors bred in the reserve. There is also wildlife to spot during the day - black wildebeest, roan, sable, rhino, and buffalo.
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