SA Wildlife: The Serval {Felis Serval} (Photo)

The Serval is not as well known as the larger cats, probably because they are smaller, mainly nocturnal and solitary.

The serval is much larger than the domestic cat. It is long legged, the hind legs longer than the front legs. The neck is long and its head small, with large, very erect ears.

The serval’s coat is yellowish-tan, with black spots, bands and stripes. The tail is ringed with black, and the underparts of the body are white or light tan. Individual servals can be identified by their unique features; diverse patterns of spots and stripes, nicks in their ears, and variations in colour.

QUICK FACTS

Size

Serval stand 22 inches at the shoulder.

Weight

30 to 45 pounds.

Habitat

Savannahs. Servals are common on the savannahs where there is plenty of water. They seem to prefer areas of bush, tall grass and dry reed beds near streams, but are found in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets. Black servals occur in Kenya’s high country.

Diet – Carnivores

Servals eat a great variety of prey, including birds, snakes, lizards, frogs and insects, and they are notorious poultry raiders. They are quite successful hunters, catching an average of 50 percent of all prey hunted.

Socialisation

The serval is mainly nocturnal, but even in the daytime it can be difficult to see in tall grass. The serval hunts by sight and sound more than scent. With its acute hearing, a serval can locate prey that is moving underground.

If hunting prey above ground, the serval raises its head above the grass and listens for movement. Once a sound is located, the serval stealthily approaches, then leaps and pounces. It often plays with its catch before eating it.

A serval has a territory of up to 5 square miles that it continually marks by spraying urine on grass and bushes along the borders. The marking alerts servals in overlapping territories to keep their distance.

Life Expectancy

20 years in the wild.

Predators

  • Hyenas
  • Leopards

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