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These slender and extremely agile cats are one of Africa's most successful hunters.
Servals are at risk from habitat loss and degradation. Servals rely on wetlands, which are a favoured home of rodents, which comprise the main part of the Serval’s diet.
Unfortunately there is still a trade in Serval pelts, and they are also preyed upon in some parts of Africa for their supposed medicinal value. Despite these risks, Servals are not considered to be under threat as a species and are classed as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN red list).
This solitary cat is found in much of Africa, from sub-Saharan Africa to the south-east. Servals are not endangered but are considered rare in many areas of their distribution, including the whole of South Africa.
Visiting the Servals at Werribee is an opportunity not only to see these amazing animals up close, but also to learn about the threats to African wildlife and the Zoo's conservation programs, including Beads for Wildlife.
With a height of 54–62cm, the Serval is the tallest of the African small cats. They prefer areas of tall grass, often close to water, in savannah and grasslands.
The Serval’s slim build features a long neck and long legs, prominent ears and a medium length tail. They are extremely athletic and adept at pouncing upon rats, mice and other rodents and birds. Elongated forelimbs are utilised in reaching down into holes of various rodents.
Grass rats and mole rats make up a large portion of the Serval’s diet but it may also include birds up to the size of flamingos, snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, insects, and even the young of small to medium sized antelopes. Vegetable matter may also be consumed and includes bananas, avocados and grass.
- When hunting, the Serval will often pluck birds from mid-air. The agile cat will jump high in the air (up to 3 metres) and thump its paws down on the bird
- Their large ears are designed to pick up and pinpoint the slightest noise, enabling them to pick up the frequency of rodent calls and even detect underground movements
- Cats can see up to six times better than humans in poor light
- Unlike some cats, the Serval will leap into water if it means it will get a tasty meal
- Servals are hunted for fur in eastern Africa and this has had devastating effects on the population. Although now protected, the Serval is undoubtedly still hunted, but in smaller numbers