The African Serval is a versatile hunter with a wide natural range in Africa.
Our newest arrival is a young female serval named Cleo. Cleo joins the RainForest crew from Alabama's Gulf Coast Zoo. Born in August of 2011 she is rapidly growing into a formidable hunter. Young servals spend as many as 26 weeks with their mothers prior to venturing off to establish their own hunting range. A fast animal, the serval, is known for hunting birds by leaping vertically as high as 6 feet in the air.
Closely resembling the cheetah, the spotted coat of the Serval provides excellent camouflage in the grasslands of its native Africa. Servals do not however posses the land speed of their cousins the cheetah.
In the summer of 2010 Nairobi was joined at RainForest by Niles, a male serval. Niles is a large, robust male Serval born at the Columbus Zoo in July of 2009.
Range: Africa, south of the Sahara, tends to avoid dense jungle.
Habitat: Savannahs, grasslands, and human farming areas.
Natural Diet: Small mammals & birds, reptiles are also included occasionally in the Servals diet.
Diet at Rain Forest: Chicken, prepared zoo feline diet, and rodents.
Rain Forest Facts: The serval hunts primarily as a crepuscular animal moving quietly through the grass on its long legs, listening for its prey. The large ears aid in giving the serval acute hearing by which to detect prey in the dark. The Serval has 22 muscles in it's ears alone! When prey is located, the serval pounces on it killing it with a quick, hard blow. It is also very skilled at digging rodents out of their burrow using its front paws. the Serval is a very secretive, solitary animal, rarely seen during the day.
There are multiple subspecies of the Serval recognized and several that are in dispute, the overall consensus however is that there are multiple subspecies of this cat.
An environmentally important animal, the serval, may kill as many as 3,000 rats per year. This massive reduction in the local rodent population has far reaching implications for the native people of the area. Food grown for human consumption as well as domestic animal feed is far less likely to be destroyed in the field by rodents when servals live in the area. Additionally diseases spread by the rodents are reduced greatly as well.
Female servals give birth to a small litter of 1-3 young. Two is generally the average. There is no social interaction between the male serval and the kittens. Young servals will spend up to 6 months with their mothers before venturing out on their own.
Size: Females 20-25 pounds--males 25-40 pounds.
Status in Wild: Numbers are stable in parts of range. Servals are still hunted for their skins which are often sold as cheetah pelts.
Educational programs are beginning to have a positive impact in certain parts of the servals range. Farmers are being taught the value of the serval as a tool for controlling the exploding rodent population and the associated problems that the rodents bring.
The African serval has the longest legs relative to its body size of any cat on earth.
Young servals often need extreme amounts of calcium to help grow their long legs.