Scientific Name: Leptailurus serval
IUCN Status: Least Concern (Sub-Saharan Africa), Critically Endangered (North Africa)
Weight: 13-40 pounds
The Serval is a tall, medium sized, slender cat with very long legs and a short tail measuring around a third of the body length. The smallish head is lightly built and dominated by very large, parabolic ears. Background colour is pale tawny to golden-yellow fading to pale underparts, and marked all over with bold, black spots that coalesce into long blotches on the nape, shoulders, and limbs. Melanistic individuals are common in some populations. Seven subspecies are currently described but are questionable; they are based largely on color differences and spotting which vary considerably within populations.
Servals specialize in hunting small mammals in long-grass habitats. Rodents and shrews comprise at least three quarters of their diet. Small grassland birds are also important to the Serval’s diet. Hares, large insects, larger birds, small carnivores, small ungulates, reptiles and amphibians are opportunistically eaten.
Habitat and Distribution:
The Serval is endemic to Africa where it occurs widely throughout southern and east Africa, patchily in west Africa and as a relict population in north Africa. It is naturally absent from most of the Congo Basin and the Sahara. Servals inhabit all types of savanna woodlands, grasslands, and dry-humid forests, typically in close association with rivers, marshes, reedbeds, and floodplains.
Servals breed year round. Gestation is 65-75 days, and litters average 2-3 kittens. Exceptionally, up to 6 kittens have been born in captivity.