Serval | African Wildlife Foundation

The serval has the longest legs
of all cats, relative to its size

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Serval

Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • There are 19 recognized subspecies
  • Can jump up to 10 feet in the air
  • Native to more than 35 African countries

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Leptailurus serval

Weight

30 to 40 lb.

Size

22 in. at the shoulder

Life span

Up to 20 years in captivity

Habitat

Savannas

Diet

Carnivorous

Gestation

70 days

Predators

Hyenas, leopards, hunting dogs

Habitat

Where do servals live?

Servals are common on savannas where there is plenty of water. They prefer areas of bush, tall grass, and dry reed beds near streams, but they are also found in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets. It is found in most parts of Africa, with the exception of Central Equatorial Africa, the very Southern part of the continent, and the Sahara region.

Tags: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kazungula, Kilimanjaro, Limpopo, Regional Parc W, Samburu, East Africa, Southern Africa, West/Central Africa View Africa | Habitat

Physical Characteristics

What is a serval?

Servals are medium-sized wild cats with tawny, black-spotted coats and long necks and long legs that allow them to see over savanna grasses. They also have large ears and an acute sense of hearing. 

Behavior & Diet

Servals enjoy a diverse diet. 

Servals eat a great variety of prey, including rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, and insects. They catch much of their prey by leaping high into the air and pouncing. They have also been seen using their long forelimbs to reach into burrows or to hook fish out of water. They are quite successful hunters and seldom eat carrion.

They lead a solitary existence.

Servals come together in pairs only for a few days when the female is in heat. 

They are single mothers.

Serval kittens, born in litters of two to four, are difficult to observe, as the mother hides them well and frequently changes the hiding place. Because the female raises the litter alone, she has to hunt frequently to feed them. When the young are large enough to hunt, the mother drives the males out. Young females remain somewhat longer, but when they become sexually mature, they too leave to establish their own territories.

Gallery
  • Serval Federico Veronesi
  • Serval Billy Dodson
  • Serval Paul Lampert
  • Serval Billy Dodson
Challenges

Servals are hunted by humans.

Servals’ spotted coats are sometimes marketed as young leopards or cheetahs and can attract a hearty price on the black market. This, as well as the serval’s tendency to attack poultry, makes it a target for hunters. Consequently, servals are no longer found in heavily populated areas. 

Solutions

Our solutions to protecting the serval:

  • Engage wildlife scouts.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with communities who live in close quarters with wildlife and equips scouts with essential tools, such as Global Positioning System (GPS)-monitoring devices and vehicles. As a result, AWF is able to ensure enhanced protection of wildlife in these regions as well as provide additional employment opportunities to local communities.

  • Foster symbiosis between wildlife and people.

    AWF works with communities living in close proximity to wildlife to incentivize conservation. In exchange for refraining from retaliatory killing or killing for products, like fur, communities receive training in sustainable, and more productive, agriculture techniques that lead to enhanced food and economic security.

Projects

Will you show the serval your support?

With your help, AWF can continue working on critical programs like providing training for sustainable agriculture and engaging wildlife scouts. Donate for a cause that will help with wildlife conservation and ensure the serval does not become an endangered species.

  • Satao Elerai Lodge
    Promoting conservation and ecotourism in Kenya

    Kenyan wildlife is diverse but threatened.

    Kenya is home to some of Africa’s most diverse ecosystems and identifiable species. Lush savanna landscapes play host to...

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  • Kitengela Land Conservation
    Protecting habitat and communities near Kenya’s capital

    Human expansion is threatening wildlife outside of Nairobi, Kenya.

    For many years, local Maasai communities, their livestock, and wildlife comfortably shared the open...

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  • Wildlife Waterholes in Parc W
    Preserving wildlife amidst a drought

    Short rainy season proves disastrous for local fauna. 

    In Regional Parc W, 80% of the more than 30 water points are completely dry by March or April. The regular dry...

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  • Land for Livestock
    Balancing the land needs of farmers, herders, and wildlife

    Livestock is a vital livelihood for people in West Africa. So is farming.

    As competition over land and natural resources grows, pressure on protected areas and...

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