Servals are so elusive that you could be forgiven for thinking that they are a rare or endangered species. Truth is that these medium-sized cats are thriving throughout Namibia and listed as ‘least-concern’ on the IUCN Red List.
What to Look For
These medium-sized felines are the tallest of the small cats, reaching about 83cm at the shoulder when fully grown. They are closely related to the caracal and have a similar shape apart from their disproportionately long legs.
Their coats are gorgeously spotted and striped with black markings on a tawny background.
When to See a Serval
Servals are hardly ever seen during daytime safaris. They have cottoned on to the fact that their prey species, rodents, are most active at dusk and dawn and adapted their habits to suit. Your best chance at spotting a serval is early in the morning or just before sunset although they are occasionally seen on night drives.
Facts About the Serval Survival
Servals have elongated toes which give them excellent mobility in the bush. They are agile predators and can leap up to 3m in the air after an escaping bird. They are recognized as the best rodent hunters worldwide and the most successful hunters of all the cat species. Studies show that servals succeed in their hunting efforts 50% of the time, while the average for lions is only 30%.
Servals have large ears and acute hearing which allows them to detect prey hiding underground. They use their long limbs to fish rodents out of their burrows and are known for playing with their food – batting prey about with their retractable-clawed paws before eating it.
The fastest speed recorded for a serval is 80km per hour, which is at the low end of a cheetah’s range. Like cheetah’s they can twist and turn very quickly while running.
Solitary and territorial animals, servals choosing to avoid confrontation if they can. Both sexes mark their territory by spraying urine on bushes. Except during brief mating encounters, servals avoid each other if possible. The females are slightly more tolerant of sharing their territory with other females.