(Leptailurus serval)




Facts about this animal

The serval is a medium-sized spotted cat. The head-body length ranges from 70-100 cm, tail length from 30-40 cm, height at shoulder from 45-65 cm, and body-weight from 7-18 kg.


The body is slender, the legs long and the tail rather short. The head is elongate. The ears are very large, oval in shape and without ear tufts. The back side is black with a white central spot. The nose pad is large and laterally black. The iris is yellow, the pupils are contracting into vertical slits.


The coat is coarse. Ground colour is pale yellowish buff or reddish yellow with black markings. In most animals the markings consists of large black spots that tend to merge into longitudinal stripes on the neck and back. The tail is spotted and distally ringed.


The so-called "servalina" type has small spots.


Servals are solitary animals, living in overlapping home ranges, although male and female may sometimes hunt together. They are active mainly at night, dawn and dusk. After a gestation of 65 to 75 days, the female gives birth to a litter of on average 3 kittens, which she hides in a den built with thick, tall grass.


Servals are carnivorous, feeding primarily on hares, small rodents such as mole rats, ground squirrels, vlei rats, various birds, and frogs.

Did you know?
that a hunting serval uses its large ears to locate a prey in the high grass by sound? The serval will then pounce in a high curving leap (in German called "Mäuselsprung") that carries it above the grass and down onto its prey with enough force to stunn or kill it.


Name (Scientific) Leptailurus serval
Name (English) Serval
Name (French) Serval
Name (German) Serval
Name (Spanish) Serval
Local names Afrikaans: Tierboskat
chiShona: Nzudzi
ciVenda: Didingwe, Didinngwe, Dagaladzhie
Damara: !Garu !garo |hôab
kiSwahili: Mondo
Lozi: Nwela
isiNdebele: Indlozi, inhlosi, inhlozi
isiZulu: Ihlosi, inhlosi, ingwenkala, indlozi
isiXhosa: indlozi
sePedi: Ledotse, tetekgwe, lelotswe
seSotho: Phaha, tloli, tholi, qwako, tlodi
seTswana: Tadi, ledôtse
siSwati: Indloti, lindloti
xiTsongand: Loti
Yei: Unqosile, Nama
CITES Status Appendix II
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Congo DR, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. Possibly extinct in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia
Habitat Open woodlands, savannas, shurbland, grassland including log-grass steppes and alpine meadows up to 3,8000 m above sea level.
Wild population No global data available. Estimate of more than 50,000 adult individuals.
Zoo population 391 animals reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo



How this animal should be transported

Transport crates should be sufficiently large to meet legal requirements and sufficiently strong to prevent escape or damage to the crate and animal. Basic design should allow free flow of air through multiple sides of the container. Preferably, a double door design at least on one end of the crate should be used. The "inner" door should have bars or wire mesh to contain the animal, and the "outer" door should consist of a thin panel of expanded metal or plywood that provides safety for the handlers and isolation for the animal. The doors should travel vertically to facilitate animal transfer and contain a secure locking system. The crate should drain well, and absorbent bedding should be used to prevent the animal from being exposed to or lying in urine or excreta.


The shipment should be organised in a way to minimise stress. The animal should have access to its transport crate for 2 weeks before shipment, preferably being fed within it. If an extended trip is anticipated, water and food as may be required should be provided while the animal is in transit.


For air transport, Container Note 82 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Why do zoos keep this animal

The serval is a very attractive cat species which is an excellent ambassador for the conservation of African wetlands and grasslands.


There are regional coordinated breeding programmes in Australia and North america.