7 Amazing Serval Facts
The BBC’s Planet Earth 2, presented by David Attenborough, includes a number of scenes of serval cats. The association of serval cats with human beings dates to the time of Ancient Egypt. Servals are depicted as gifts or traded objects from Nubia in Egyptian art. Over the years, servals, otherwise known as ‘savannah cats’, have gained popularity as pets. Seeing one on safari is quite rare and although they hunt on average 15-16 times a day, witnessing a serval hunt is even rarer.
1. Where can I see a serval on safari?
The serval (Leptailurus serval) is a slender spotted cat associated with moist savannah, swamp and forest fringe habitats. Servals are common where there is plenty of water – they prefer areas of bush, tall grass and dry read beds near streams. They are also found in high-altitude moorlands and thicket. They are native to more than 35 African countries. Serval sightings on safari are rare and the best place to see them is in the Serengeti, especially in the first half hour after sunrise and just before sunset.
2. How can I identify a serval on safari?
It’s slim, long-legged build resembles that of a cheetah but smaller, shoulder height 55cm /22 inch. It has a proportionally shorter tail (one-third of its body length) as opposed to two-thirds. It has black –on-gold spots which are elongated towards the head. Servals also have exceptionally large and prominent ears, which are an adaptation for detecting the movement of prey in long grass. They weigh about 30-40lbs / 13-18kg.
3. What do servals eat?
Servals eat a variety of prey mainly rodents and birds, which it pounces upon with spectacular high spring, dispatching its victim with a fatal blow from one of its fore paws. They can jump up to 3 metres/ 10 feet in the air. The also eat reptiles, frogs and insects. They have also been seen using their long forelimbs to reach into burrows or to hook fish out of water.
4. What is the mating behaviour of servals?
Servals come together in pairs only for a few days when the female is in heat.
5. What are the serval kittens like?
A female serval gives birth after 70 days. Serval kittens born in litters of two to four are difficult to spot as the mother hides them well and frequently changes the hiding place. The mother raises the litter alone and she must hunt frequently to feed them. When the serval kittens are young enough to hunt the mother drives the male offspring out. Young females remain somewhat longer but when they are sexually mature they too leave to establish their own territories.
6. What are a serval’s predators?
Hyenas, leopards and hunting dogs prey on serval cats.
7. What other safari animals are commonly mistaken for servals?
Cheetahs have similar markings but are much bigger and have smaller ears.
Civets are from the mongoose family, darker markings and smaller ears
Genets have much smaller ears.
Caracals have fine ear tufts and uniform colouring.
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