Servals (Leptailurus serval) are a medium-sized cat with 19 recognized subspecies. Servals are small wild cats native to Africa. The majority of their population is distributed across the south of the Sahara in the savannah near watercourses (flowing bodies of water).Research has shown that the African serval cat is closely related to both the African golden cat and the caracal. Although the fur pattern is often variable, the body features black spots and a few stripes over a golden coat. They are sometimes mistaken for black panthers or leopards from a distance because their black ears peek out of the grass.
Interesting Species Facts
Hunting & Prey
As the serval is nocturnal, it hunts its prey at night. They mainly prey on rodents but eat birds, reptiles, insects, fish, and frogs when the opportunity for a kill arises. Servals eat incredibly quickly and can travel as much as 3 or 4 kilometers each night in search of food.
The serval has the longest legs, relative to body size, of any cat and this allows them to jump and run up to 80 kilometers per hour with agility through the savannah grass. Not only are they able to dig underground in search of rodents, they can also jump 2 to 3 meters in the air and snatch birds. Their incredible intelligence and wit allows them a 50% success rate for catching pray, 20% more than a lion.
The gestation period of a female Serval lasts from 66 to 77 days and the litters contain 1-4 kittens. They are able to have multiple litters each year. Life expectancy in the wild is 10 years and up to 20 years in captivity. Although their numbers have been swindled due to poachers for pelts they have been re-introduced in private reserves along the Eastern Cape.
- Leptailurus serval kempi (Uganda)
- Leptailurus serval kivuensis (Congo)
- Leptailurus serval lipostictus (northern Angola)
- Leptailurus serval lonnbergi (southern Angola)
- Leptailurus serval mababiensis (northern Botswana)
- Leptailurus serval serval (Cape Province)
- Leptailurus serval constantinus (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia)
- Leptailurus serval hamiltoni (eastern Transvaal Province)
- Leptailurus serval robertsi (western Transvaal Province)
- Leptailurus serval beirae (Mozambique)
- Leptailurus serval tanae (Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia)
- Leptailurus serval togoensis (Togo and Benin)
- Leptailurus serval brachyurus (West Africa and the Sahel region to Ethiopia)
- Leptailurus serval hindei (Tanzania)
- Leptailurus serval faradjius
- Leptailurus serval ferrarii
- Leptailurus serval pantastictus
- Leptailurus serval phillipsi
- Leptailurus serval pococki
Servals are currently on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, but they are of LEAST CONCERN.
African Serval Cat Conservation Organizations
Big Cat Rescue
The largest accredited sanctuary in the world dedicated entirely to the rescue and housing of abused and abandoned cats.
"...We are home to over 100 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars and other species most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts...Our dual mission is to provide the best home we can for the cats in our care and educate the public about the plight of these majestic animals, both in captivity and in the wild, to end abuse and avoid extinction." Carolina Tiger Rescue
Nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wildcats in captivity and in the wild.
Cat Conservation Trust
Creates public awareness of the plight of the small cats through research and education.
Cat Survival Trust
A United Kingdom charitable organization, trust and sanctuary for wild cats.
Washington State zoological park promoting the preservation of endangered species in general, with a specific focus on the endangered & exotic cats.
International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada
A 100% volunteer organization specializing in small wild cat conservation with an extensive online database of wild cat information.
IUCN/SSC: Cat Specialist Group
Advancing the understanding and conservation of the world’s 36 wild living cat species.
"...The IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group brings together more than 200 of the world’s leading cat experts, including scientists, wildlife managers and conservationists from 50 countries who are dedicated to advancing the understanding and conservation of the world’s 36 wild living cat species...The Cat Specialist Group is active in many of its own initiatives as well, focusing on the development of tools for the assessment of the species’ status, for the compilation and distribution of intelligence and for supporting the work of its members..." Panther Ridge Conservation Center
A Florida conservation center that provides a home, haven and hope for some of the world's most majestic and endangered big cats.
The Roar Foundation | Shambala
The California-based Roar Foundation supports The Shambala Preserve and shares its mission to educate the public about exotic animals, advocate for legislation to protect them and provide a sanctuary for mistreated and neglected animals.
"...Once an animal is brought to Shambala, it remains here for the rest of its life. As a true sanctuary, we do not buy, breed, sell, trade, or subject our animals to commercial use. Our only purpose is to allow these magnificent animals to live out their lives with love and dignity. Each "Wild One" has the best human, nutritional, medical, emotional, and mental care possible..." The Wildcat Sanctuary
Provides a natural sanctuary to wild cats in need and inspires change to end the captive wildlife crisis.