Aliens abound on the Hermanus Cliff Path – and I don’t mean foreign tourists. There has not been a natural fire for decades, and everyone is a bit afraid of thinking of a controlled burn, with so many private residences right there. The Cliff Path Management Group has ‘hacked’ aliens manually for years, led by Frank Woodvine, his indomitable employed team and the occasional volunteers.

Jan Cilliers recently spotted this Cape Genet on the Cliff Path – a rare sight in broad daylight as genets are generally nocturnal to avoid daytime predators.

There are clear benefits to volunteers hacking alien invasive plants on the Hermanus Cliff Path. Apart from the sense of satisfaction of contributing to the maintenance of local biodiversity, you might just get to see the wildlife.

Not so long ago, during the lockdown, when there were fewer people with their dogs walking on the path, Westcliff resident and member of the Cliff Path Management Group, Jan Cilliers, was doing his usual alien clearing when he spotted a gorgeous Cape Genet.  

“A genet came to check out what I was doing in his neighbourhood – hacking aliens on the Cliff Path… It seemed quite relaxed about our meeting, and sauntered away after a few minutes, very close past me. This was my first daytime encounter with a genet,” he said.

I was reminded of a photograph that appeared in the Hermanus Times some years ago. A Cape Genet had wandered from the Cliff Path into Hermanus town centre and apparently decided to check out a video for the evening from Mr Video in Main Road. 

This photograph of a Cape Genet that had wandered from the Cliff Path into a video shop in Hermanus town centre appeared in the Hermanus Times some years ago.

The newspaper report did not disclose his entertainment choice, but the loan was declined. He was escorted out of the store and returned to his native habitat.

Genets look a bit like a cross between a ferret, a cat and a lemur. Although genets are small cat-like creatures, they are not in any way related to cats. Their bodies are long and slender. They have short legs and long tails, fairly long snouts, a spotted coat and alternating dark and light rings around the tail.

The Cape Genet (Genetta tigrina) is also known as the Large-spotted Genet. This is to distinguish it from another, very similar genet, the Small-spotted genet (Genetta genetta) also called the Common Genet. The names refer to the relative size of the spots, not to the size of the animal. In fact, they are of similar size – and that’s not very big.

The Small-spotted Genet’s spots are slightly smaller and totally black while on the Large-spotted Genet there is a rusty coloured centre in each spot. Another more noticeable difference is that the Large-spotted Genet has a black-tipped tail while the Small-spotted Genet has a white-tipped tail. However, you won’t be confused on the Cliff Path as the Cape Genet occurs in Hermanus and the Common Genet does not.

Genets are generally nocturnal to avoid daytime predators. So spotting one on the Cliff Path in broad daylight is very special. 

Cape Genets have retractable nails, so they are good climbers and well adapted to an arboreal way of life, though they do spend time foraging on the ground. Genets are omnivores that feed on small mammals, especially rodents, shrews, bats, birds and their eggs, frogs, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, and various fruits.

Their excellent eyesight and their agility make them highly effective predators of rodents and small reptiles like lizards. Chameleons will undoubtedly be on their menu. 

Cape Genets prefer well wooded and watered habitats, particularly forests and woodlands. They are found in the eastern areas of southern Africa and into the Western Cape’s fynbos areas. (Common genets are found mainly in the northern parts of Africa and into southern Europe where they were introduced as pets.)

The Cape Genet (Genetta tigrina), also known as the Large-spotted Genet, is found in Hermanus but not the Common Genet (Genetta genetta), also called the Small-spotted genet. They are very similar and the names refer to the relative size of the spots, not to the size of the animal. PHOTOS: Klaus Rudloff

So, if you also wish to spot the wildlife on the Cliff Path, consider joining the hacking group that will meet monthly as soon as circumstances allow. You can help to eradicate those aliens that have grown out of control during the lockdown. Email to join the group.

About the Author

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Whale Coast Conservation passionately lives by its slogan “Caring for your environment”.

Its small staff and volunteers are dedicated to

  • raising community and visitor awareness of the unique, biodiverse natural resources of the Cape Whale Coast region and
  • to projects that convert awareness into practical actions that lead towards living sustainably.

WCC ensures expert representation in public participation processes that contribute to environmental and developmental policies and legislation.  We monitor regional development; and ensure compliance with legislation and guidelines.

WCC increases general public awareness of sustainability through environmental education, citizen-science research projects, community projects and campaigns.

WCC communicates with its audience through exhibitions, signage, technology demonstrations, workshops, talks, film shows, newsletters and articles.

WCC places emphasis on educating future generations through its Youth Environment Programme (YEP).  YEP is offered to 24 schools in its target area with a total of over 10,000 learners.

WCC facilitates schools’ participation in special events such as Earth Day, Walking for Water, Arbor Day and Coastal Clean-ups.

WCC facilitates educator development programmes to improve the capacity of educators to offer informed environmental content in their lessons across all learning streams.

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