Good Day Readers,
Winter has settled in and turned the tall grass from green to golden while depleting the leaves from the numerous trees on a daily rate. With winter comes amazing sightings and not only have our rangers been lucky in finding our Big 5 game on a daily basis, the smaller animals we often forget about during the summer months have begun making themselves visible. Our rangers have been lucky enough to have two Serval sightings in the last week so for this weeks’ blog we thought we would take the opportunity to talk about this smaller and less appreciated feline.
A Serval is a medium sized nocturnal and solitary cat with the longest legs relative to body size of any of the cat species. The legs have been adapted for jumping and running through the Savanna bushveld to hunt small game such as birds, rodents, frogs and small antelope. Serval are tawny in colour with black spots and stripes, they have a short set tail and very large and closely set ears for an acute sense of hearing making them distinctive from their close relatives the Caracal and the African Golden Cat which is found in west and central Africa. Melanistic Serval, which look a lot like a Black Panther, have been spotted in more mountainous areas of South Africa and Lucistic (little or no skin pigment) Serval have not been seen in the wild, however there are records of them living in captivity.
Although little, the Serval is able to run at a top speed of 80km/h; this is as fast as the top speed of a Lion. Like all their feline cousins Serval are territorial cats and defend ranges of up to 31km2. A Serval is able to purr and meow just like domestic cats but they also growl, grunt, hiss and cackle.
While not classified as an endangered species, a Serval sighting is very rare and special as these cats are slowly dwindling in numbers and have been classified as extinct in the Western parts of South Africa. Not only are Serval hunted by larger predators such as Leopard, loss of habitat by human construction, hunting and poaching contribute to their decreasing numbers making them vulnerable to an array of enemies.
So next time you are on Safari, keep an eye out for these interesting and majestic felines on road sides in Acacia thickets and if you are lucky enough to see one, you will be able to tick another amazing species off your sightings sheet.
Until next week…
The Ranger Team