Leptailurus servalServal

Family

  • Felidae

Lifespan

  • Wild: 10 to 12 years
  • Captivity: 13 to 20 years

Size

  • Length: 2 to 3 feet, head and body, with a 12 inch tail
  • Weight: 20 to 40 pounds

Range

  • Sub-Saharan Africa

Habitat

  • Long-grass savannahs near water and wetlands

Diet

  • Wild: Mainly eats rodents and small mammals but will also eat frogs, lizards, insects, and small birds
  • Zoo: Ground beef with vitamins mixed in, chicks, and knucklebones to help keep his teeth healthy.

Reproduction

  • The serval reaches maturity at approximately 18 months.
  • Servals lead solitary lives and come together in pairs only for a few days when the female is in heat.
  • Gestation is approximately 75 days and an average litter is 1 to 3 kittens.

Special Adaptations

  • The serval has excellent hearing as indicated by its very large ears.
    • Those ears trap sound waves, allowing the serval to detect tunneling rodents underground, which it digs up and eats.
  • The servals black-spotted, tawny to yellow-orange coat camouflage it well in the long grasses and foliage of the savannahs and wetlands it inhabits.

Feline Facts

  • Like other felines, the serval stalks and pounces on its prey.
  • Its sharp teeth and claws allow it to swiftly subdue its victim.

Unique Characteristics

  • The serval is among the swiftest and most agile of the wild cats.
    • Its long muscular legs provide it with good climbing and great leaping abilities.
    • This enables it to flush out a bird on the ground and then catch it in mid flight jumping straight up from the ground, up to 13 feet in the air!

Serval

Conservation Status

  • IUCN: Least Concern
  • CITES: Appendix II (trade controlled)
  • Though current populations of servals are reasonably widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the principle threats they face are habitat loss and persecution.
  • Servals are coveted for their fur, and their pelts are marketed through domestic and tourist trade.
  • Servals are reputed to be easy to hunt.
    • They will run up a tree if chased by dogs, where they can then be easily shot.
  • Though international commerce in serval products has been banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), actual legislation to protect or regulate the hunting of servals does not exist in many African nations, and serval pelts continue to be exported

Sources

  1. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012. www.cites.org
  2. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Accessed December 2012. www.iucnredlist.org
  3. Leptailurus serval serval (Schreber, 1776). Encyclopedia of Life. Accessed December 2012. www.eol.org/pages/1240956