Serval (Leptailurus serval)

serval

The serval are just past the tiger enclosure and close to where the okapis live

Fast facts

Status Least Concern

Size Head and body length: 67-100cm. Tail length: 20-38cm

Weight Up to 18kg. Males tend to be bigger than females.

Gestation 2 ½ months

Young 1-3

Life span 10 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity

What do I eat?

Servals will eat smaller animals such as fish, birds, small mammals (including mice, shrews, rats and scrub hares), insects, snakes, lizards and even some grasses.

This cat will mostly hunt at dawn and dusk, but will sometimes hunt in the day. They will use their large ears to listen out for smaller animals hiding away in tall grass. As soon as they have spotted their prey, they will creep up to it and jump high in the air and strike it down with its paws. They have even been known to use this hunting method to catch birds and insects in mid-flight!

Where do I live?

These cats are found in Africa, mostly in countries that are south of the Sahara Desert. Servals prefer habitats such as grasslands, forest edges, wooded areas with grassy clearings and moist habitats including marshes and reed beds.

Breeding

After mating the male will stay close to the female for around 4 days before leaving, as the males do not help look after the young. The female will make a den when she is close to giving birth, in dense vegetation or in an unused burrow (from a porcupine or aardvark).

Serval kittens are born with their eyes closed and their ears folded over, that will start to unfold and grow quickly as the kitten gets older. After 9-13 days, the young servals open their eyes and the mother will begin to bring back solid food for them to eat after 1 month. The youngsters are weaned from their mother at 4-5 months as their adult teeth start to come through at 6 months, which is also around the same time that they will start to hunt for their own food.

They stay close to their mother’s territory until they are about 1 year old, then the mother chases them away for them to find their own homes. Servals are fully mature at around 1-2 years old.

Predators

Even though servals are predators, they do face threats from other animals such as hyenas, leopards, lions, Nile crocodiles and African wild dogs. In some areas servals may face problems with other smaller cats called caracals, as they hunt the same prey animals as the serval.

Servals will use their colourings to hide away or blend into their surroundings (camouflage), to stay safe away from threats and to keep out of sight of their prey.

Conservation

The main threats these small cats face in the wild is hunting (for fur, killed by farmers to protect domestic animals and traditional medicines), habitat loss and degradation. This is mostly linked with loss of wetland habitats (which is where most of their prey live), burning of grassland areas, overgrazing by livestock and more land wanted for farming.

At this time there is no known conservation projects put in place for the serval, as they are found in many protected areas in its range.

Did you know?

Servals can jump up to 3m high in to the air!

The serval have the longest legs (compared with the size of their body) of any cat species.

Servals spend most of their lives on their own (solitary), except during breeding or if a female has kittens.

Around half of all hunting attempts made by servals are successful.

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You had a lot of things to keep our students entertained throughout the day

We chose Marwell Zoo because of the great publicity and also that a lot of our students had never visited your park. You had a lot of things to keep our students entertained throughout the day as well. I feel that during our visit that everything was easily accessible to everyone in… Read full reviewBethany – The Cafe Project, 27th October 2017