The most common mammal on the mountain was the dassie (the South African name, from Afrikaans, pronounced “dussy”), or rock hyrax. Between about 2000 and 2004 (no one is certain about the exact year or years) their numbers suddenly plummeted for unknown reasons. They used to cluster around the upper cable station, near areas where tourists discarded or (illegally) supplied food.

 

The population crash of the dassies has in all probability been responsible for the decline in the Verreaux’s eagle population on the Peninsula. From 2004 (when monitoring was re-initiated) till 2012 there was only one nesting pair on the cliffs below Noordhoek Peak, (and since then only a single individual), when previously there had been at least three pairs, one of which had a cliff nest near the upper cable station on Table Mountain, in Blinkwater Ravine. Dassies were an important part the Verreaux’s eagle’s prey on the Peninsula.

 

Table Mountain is also home toporcupines, mongooses, snakes, lizards, tortoises, and a rare endemic species of amphibian that is only found on Table Mountain, the Table Mountain ghost frog.

 

The last lion in the area was shot circa 1802. Leopards persisted on the mountains until perhaps the 1920s but are now extinct locally. Two smaller, secretive, nocturnal carnivores, the rooikat (caracal) and the vaalboskat (also called the vaalkat or African wild cat) were once common in the mountains and the mountain slopes. The rooikat continues to be seen on rare occasions by mountaineers but the status of the vaalboskat is uncertain.

 

The mountain cliffs are home to several raptors species, apart from the Verreaux’s eagle. They include the jackal buzzard, booted eagle (in summer), African harrier-hawk, peregrine falcon and the rock kestrel. There are currently (2014) four pairs of African fish eagles on the Peninsula, but they nest in trees generally as far away from human habitation and activity as is possible on the Peninsula.

 

Up until the late 1990s baboons occurred on all the mountains of the Peninsula, including the Back Table immediately behind Table Mountain. Since then they have abandoned Table Mountain and the Back Table, and only occur south of Constantia Nek. They have also abandoned the tops of many of the mountains, in favour of the lower slopes, particularly when these were covered in pine plantations which seemed to provide them with more, or higher quality food than the Fynbos on the mountain tops. However these new haunts are also within easy reach of Cape Town’s suburbs, which brings them into conflict with humans and dogs, and the risk of traffic accidents. There are now (2014) a dozen troops on the Peninsula, varying in size from 7 to over 100 individuals, scattered on the mountains from the Constantiaberg to Cape Point. The baboon troops are the subject of intense research into their physiology, genetics social interactions and habits. In addition, their sleeping sites are noted each evening, so that monitors armed with paint ball guns can stay with the troop all day, to ward them off from wandering into the suburbs. From when this initiative was started in 2009 the number of baboons on the Peninsula has increased from 350 to 450, and the number of baboons killed or injured by residents has decreased.

 

Himalayan tahrs, fugitive descendants of tahrs that escaped from Groote Schuur Zoo in 1936, used to be common on the less accessible upper parts of the mountain. As an exotic species, they were almost eradicated through a culling programme initiated by the South African National Parks to make way for the reintroduction of indigenous klipspringers.

 

Until recently there were also small numbers of fallow deer of European origin and sambar deer from southeast Asia. These were mainly in the Rhodes Memorial area but during the 1960s they could be found as far afield as Signal Hill. These animals may still be seen occasionally despite efforts to eliminate or relocate them.

 

On the lower slopes of Devil’s Peak, above Groote Schuur Hospital an animal camp bequeathed to the City of Cape Town by Cecil John Rhodes has been used in recent years as part of the Quagga Project. The quagga used to roam the Cape Peninsula, the Karoo and the Free State in large numbers, but were hunted to extinction during the early 1800s. The last quagga died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883. In 1987 a project was launched by Reinhold Rau to back-breed the quagga, after it had been established, using mitochondrial DNA obtained from museum specimens, that the quagga was closely related to the plains zebra, and on 20 January 2005 a foal considered to be the first quagga-like individual because of a visible reduced striping, was born. These quagga-like zebra are officially known as Rau quagga, as no one can be certain that they are anything more than quagga look-alikes. The animal camp above Groote Schuur Hospital has several good looking Rau quaggas, but they are unfortunately not easily seen except from within the game camp, which is quite large and undulating, and the animals are few. The animal camp is not open to the public.