- Leptailurus servalBy: C.M.Shorter
is an unusual looking, medium sized cat with a
broad territory throughout Africa and occupies much the
same range as the African
My what big ears you have! I am sure you noticed -
aren't they cute! These exceptionally large ears serve
a very important purpose. Servals use these large ears
like radar funnels to locate birds and flush them out
of tall grass areas where they perform remarkable aerial
acrobatic skills. Proficient hunters, Servals have
been seen jumping over 10 ft in the air knocking a
startled bird down in one fell swoop. The Caracal and
Lynx both have this type of "ear tuft" although
their ears are pointed and not nearly as rounded as
those of the Serval. Caracals also share the African
plains with the Serval whereby the Lynx is found in
Canada, North America and Asia. Caracals are such efficient
bird hunters they are actually used in airport bird
control programs which Jason & Dave tell us about
in the TigerHomes
DVD: PowerCats "Locked & Loaded".
It is estimated the North African Serval has
been isolated from the sub-Sarahan species for a very long period
- perhaps as long as 6,000 to 7,000 years with only a small isolated
pocket existing there . Servals are becoming increasingly rare in North Africa
with no confirmed sightings in the countries of Algeria, Morocco,
or Tunisia since the late 1930s where they once flourished. Servals
who make the southern portion of Africa home live among a wide
variety of habitats including the coastal areas, through into
the savannah woodlands, ranging up into mountainous terrain up
to 10,000 feet in elevation.
The Serval's name originates from a Portuguese
word meaning "wolf-deer". They do strike an unusual
appearance - coats are light tan in color with beautiful dark
spot markings that merge into longitudinal stripes. They have
long legs for sprinting and jumping to catch those birds! Upon
first impression from a distance they might be mistaken for a
small deer and were perhaps so by the early Europeans traveling
into Africa. Melanistic individuals do occur, particularly in
moist climates and at extreme high altitudes of their range.
Servals are crepuscular and nocturnal, but have been seen hunting
during daylight hours particularly when caring for young. Social
interaction is limited but they do travel and sleep together.
Males in the South Africa have twice the size of range than their
northern counterparts. Extremely territorial, male Servals patrol
territory bounds frequently and have been observed scent marking
as many as 40-50 times each hour. Where the Cheetah uses their
long legs for the world record speed chases, the Serval uses
their long limbs to jump more in the fashion of an antelope -
springing up out of high grass to catch prey in mid-air using
their paws to make downward swipes at the target. Primary diet
consists of these birds, rodents, snakes, reptiles, frogs and
fish. Through the Serengeti each Serval is thought to consume
over 4,000 rodents annually! Quite effective pest control, but
on the receiving end they are also threatened by ingesting rodent
prey that has been poisoned.
Major threats to the Serval are man - primarily
by poachers as Servals are still considered a dinner table delicacy
through much of their range, wild dogs and leopards. Pelts taken
often sold as young Leopard or Cheetah pelts
which are much less common. Serval body parts are still used
in for tribal ceremonies
and consumed to satisfy ancient medicinal beliefs. Wetland conservation
is key to the Serval's long term survival and preservation of
habitat, as is true with all of our Wild Cats and Great Cats
of the world.
Hunting is prohibited in only 9 of the Serval's
41 range countries and the Serval is not considered an Endangered
Species at the
present time over most of its range. Overall the Serval species
is listed by IUCN as Least Concern, with only the North African
Serval listed as Endangered
with the species as a whole listed on CITES Appendix II.
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Scientific Name: Leptailurus serval
Common Name(s): Serval
Range: South Eastern Africa, Very limited Northern African population.
Average Weight: 9 - 19kg (20 - 40 lbs)
Length: 91 - 135 cm (41-61")
Diet: Carnivorous. Birds, rodents, snakes, reptiles, frogs and
Gestation Period: 65 - 78 Days
Cub Maturity: 6 - 8 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1- 5 Kittens
Lifespan: 10 - 12 years. Captive individuals have been recorded
to live up to 20 years.
Predators: Leopards, Man, Wild Dogs. Threat: Loss of Habitat,
ingestion of poisoned prey.
Social Structure: Solitary, but known to travel and sleep together.
Territory Size: 40 - 72km (23 - 40 miles)
Conservation Status: Overall Placed on CITES Appendix II. North
African population listed by IUCN as Endangered. Hunting prohibited
in 9 of 41 range countries.