Leptailurus serval serval
Status: Least Concern
The serval is a wildcat native to Africa. The name Leptailurus derives from the Greek words which means "fine or delicate cat". Both Caracal and serval were known as lynx in ancient times. They are the prey of hyenas, hunting dogs and leopards. They prey on small mammals, fish, roots, fruit, lizards and birds.
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Ecology and Behaviour
The serval is mainly nocturnal, but even in the daytime it can be difficult to see in tall grass. They are active in the day as well as at night; activity might peak in early morning, around twilight and at midnight. It hunts by sight and sound more than scent. With its acute hearing, a serval can locate prey that is moving underground. If hunting prey above ground, the serval raises its head above the grass and listens for movement. Once a sound is located, the serval stealthily approaches, then leaps and pounces. It often plays with its catch before eating it. Servals walk as much as 2 to 4 km every night. They will often use special trails to reach certain hunting areas. A solitary animal, there is little social interaction among servals except in the mating season, when pairs of opposite sexes may stay together. The only long-lasting bond appears to be of the mother and her cubs, which leave their mother only when they are a year old.
The serval is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List
Distribution and Habitat
They are very common in the big national parks but in general the southern african serval is rarely seen. In Zambia's Luambe National Park, the population density was recorded as 0.1/km2 in 2011. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size.
Interaction with humans
Trade of serval skins, though on the decline, still occurs in west african countries such as Benin and Senegal. In West Africa, the serval has significance in traditional medicine. Pastoralists often kill servals to protect their livestock, though servals generally do not prey on livestock. The association of servals with human beings dates to the time of Ancient Egypt. Servals are depicted as gifts or traded objects from Nubia in Egyptian art. Servals are occasionally kept as pets, although their wild nature means that ownership of servals is regulated in some countries.
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