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Brief Summary

    Serval: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia
    For other uses, see Serval (disambiguation).

    The serval (Leptailurus serval) /ˈsɜːrvəl/ is a wild cat native to Africa. It is rare in North Africa and the Sahel, but widespread in sub-Saharan countries except rainforest regions. On the IUCN Red List it is listed as Least Concern.

    It is the sole member of the genus Leptailurus and was first described by German naturalist Johann von Schreber in 1776. Three subspecies are recognised. The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat that stands 54–62 cm (21–24 in) at the shoulder and weighs 9–18 kg (20–40 lb). It is characterised by a small head, large ears, a golden-yellow to buff coat spotted and striped with black, and a short, black-tipped tail. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size.

    Active in the day as well as at night, servals tend to be solitary with minimal social interaction. Both sexes establish highly overlapping home ranges of 10 to 32 km2 (4–12 sq mi), and mark them with feces and saliva. Servals are carnivores – they prey on rodents (particularly vlei rats), small birds, frogs, insects, and reptiles. The serval uses its sense of hearing to locate the prey; to kill small prey, it leaps over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) above the ground to land on the prey on its forefeet, and finally kills it with a bite on the neck or the head. Mating takes place at different times of the year in different parts of their range, but typically once or twice a year in an area. After a gestational period of two to three months, a litter of one to four is born. Weaning occurs at one month, and kittens begin hunting on their own at six months. The juveniles leave their mother at 12 months.

    The serval prefers areas with cover such as reeds and tall grasses and proximity to water bodies, such as wetlands and savannahs. It occurs in protected areas across its range, and hunting of servals is either prohibited or regulated in several countries.

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Comprehensive Description

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
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    Maximum longevity: 22.4 years (captivity) Observations: Although it has been estimated that these animals live up to 23 years in the wild (Bernhard Grzimek 1990), record longevity in captivity is 22.4 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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    Serval
    provided by wikipedia
    For other uses, see Serval (disambiguation).

    The serval (Leptailurus serval) /ˈsɜːrvəl/ is a wild cat native to Africa. It is rare in North Africa and the Sahel, but widespread in sub-Saharan countries except rainforest regions. On the IUCN Red List it is listed as Least Concern.[1]

    It is the sole member of the genus Leptailurus and was first described by German naturalist Johann von Schreber in 1776. Three subspecies are recognised. The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat that stands 54–62 cm (21–24 in) at the shoulder and weighs 9–18 kg (20–40 lb). It is characterised by a small head, large ears, a golden-yellow to buff coat spotted and striped with black, and a short, black-tipped tail. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size.

    Active in the day as well as at night, servals tend to be solitary with minimal social interaction. Both sexes establish highly overlapping home ranges of 10 to 32 km2 (4–12 sq mi), and mark them with feces and saliva. Servals are carnivores – they prey on rodents (particularly vlei rats), small birds, frogs, insects, and reptiles. The serval uses its sense of hearing to locate the prey; to kill small prey, it leaps over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) above the ground to land on the prey on its forefeet, and finally kills it with a bite on the neck or the head. Mating takes place at different times of the year in different parts of their range, but typically once or twice a year in an area. After a gestational period of two to three months, a litter of one to four is born. Weaning occurs at one month, and kittens begin hunting on their own at six months. The juveniles leave their mother at 12 months.

    The serval prefers areas with cover such as reeds and tall grasses and proximity to water bodies, such as wetlands and savannahs. It occurs in protected areas across its range, and hunting of servals is either prohibited or regulated in several countries.

    Taxonomy and phylogeny

    The scientific name of the serval is Leptailurus serval. It is the sole member of the genus Leptailurus.[2] The species was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber as Felis serval.[3] In 1858, Russian naturalist Nikolai Severtzov proposed the genus name Leptailurus.[4]

    In the 19th and 20th centuries, some taxonomists inspected serval skins and identified two species on the basis of coat pattern: Felis serval (serval), with large, pronounced spots, and F. servalina or F. ornata (servaline cat), marked by freckle-sized dots.[5] F. servalina was first described in 1839 by Irish naturalist William Ogilby from Sierra Leone;[6] in 1867, British zoologist John Edward Gray described F. herschelii from an Indian skin, which was probably the same as the servaline cat.[7] In 1907, British zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock commented that the two forms should be considered independent species, but reverted from this in 1917.[8] Eventually, the two forms came to be recognised as the same species. Another form, F. himalayanus (Himalayan serval), was described from a skin procured from the Himalayan region; however, Scottish naturalist William Jardine noted in 1843 that no such specimen had been identified by him or his colleagues, and that it differed considerably from the common serval.[9] In 1944, Pocock identified three races of the serval from northern Africa.[10]

    Three subspecies are recognised as valid since 2017:[11]

    The phylogenetic relationships of the serval have remained in dispute; in 1997, palaeontologists M. C. McKenna and S. K. Bell classified Leptailurus as a subgenus of Felis, while others like O. R. P. Bininda-Edmonds (of the Technical University of Munich) have grouped it with Felis, Lynx and Caracal. Studies in the 2000s and the 2010s show that the serval, along with the caracal and the African golden cat, forms one of the eight lineages of Felidae. According to a 2006 genetic study, the Caracal lineage came into existence 8.5 mya, and the ancestor of this lineage arrived in Africa 8.5–5.6 mya.[12][13]

    The phylogenetic relationships of the serval are as follows:[12][13]

    .mw-parser-output table.clade{border-spacing:0;margin:0;font-size:100%;line-height:100%;border-collapse:separate;width:auto}.mw-parser-output table.clade table.clade{width:100%}.mw-parser-output table.clade td{border:0;padding:0;vertical-align:middle;text-align:center}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-label{width:0.8em;border:0;padding:0 0.2em;vertical-align:bottom;text-align:center}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-slabel{border:0;padding:0 0.2em;vertical-align:top;text-align:center}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-bar{vertical-align:middle;text-align:left;padding:0 0.5em}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leaf{border:0;padding:0;text-align:left;vertical-align:middle}.mw-parser-output table.clade td.clade-leafR{border:0;padding:0;text-align:right}   Pardofelis

    Marbled cat (P. marmorata)

    Catopuma

    Bay cat (Catopuma badia)

       

    Asian golden cat (Catopuma temminckii)

           

          Caracal Leptailurus

    Serval (L. serval)

    Caracal

    Caracal (Caracal caracal)

       

    African golden cat (Caracal aurata)

        lineage    

    Leopardus

         

    Lynx

           

    Acinonyx

       

    Puma

             

    Otocolobus

       

    Prionailurus

         

    Felis

                   

    Etymology

    The name Leptailurus may have been constructed from the medieval Greek λεπταλέος or λεπτός meaning "fine, delicate".[14] The name "serval" could have been derived from the Medieval Latin words Lupus cervalis ("deer-like wolf") or from its Portuguese equivalent lobo-cerval (referring to the Iberian lynx). The first recorded use of this name dates back to 1771.[15] Another name for the serval is "tierboskat",[16] Afrikaans for tiger-bush-cat.

    Characteristics

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    A close-up of a serval.

    The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat; it stands 54 to 62 cm (21–24 in) at the shoulder and weighs 8 to 18 kg (18–40 lb), but females tend to be lighter. The head-and-body length is typically between 67 and 100 cm (26–39 in).[17] Males tend to be sturdier than females.[8] Prominent characteristics include the small head, large ears, spotted and striped coat, long legs and a black-tipped tail that is around 30 cm (12 in) long.[16][18] The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size, largely due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet.[5][19] The toes are elongated as well, and unusually mobile.[5]

    The coat is basically golden-yellow to buff, and extensively marked with black spots and stripes.[8] The spots show great variation in size. Melanistic servals are also known.[5] Facial features include the brownish or greenish eyes, white whiskers on the snout and near the ears, ears as large as those of a domestic cat (but large relative to the size of the head) and black on the back with a white horizontal band in the middle, whitish chin, and spots and streaks on the cheeks and the forehead. Three to four black stripes run from the back of the head onto the shoulders, and then break into rows of spots. The white underbelly has dense and fluffy basal fur, and the soft guard hairs (the layer of fur protecting the basal fur) are 5–10 centimetres (2–4 in) long. Guard hairs are up to 3 centimetres (1 14 in) long on the neck, back and the flanks, and are merely 1 centimetre (12 in) long on the face.[18][20][8] The closely set ears are black on the back with a horizontal white band;[8] the ears can rotate up to 180 degrees independently of each other.[5] The serval has a good sense of smell, hearing and vision.[18]

    The serval is similar to the sympatric caracal, but has a narrower spoor, a rounder skull, and lacks its prominent ear tufts. The African golden cat is darker, with different cranial features.[8] It resembles the cheetah in its build and coat pattern, though not in size.[18] The serval shares its adaptations to its marshy habitat with the jungle cat; both cats have large and sharp ears that help in locating the prey efficiently, and their long legs raise them above muddy ground and water.[22]

    Distribution and habitat

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    A serval cat Diergaarde Blijdorp

    In North Africa, the serval is known only from Morocco and has been reintroduced in Tunisia, but is feared to be extinct in Algeria. It inhabits semi-arid areas and cork oak forests close to the Mediterranean Sea, but avoids rainforests and arid areas. It occurs in the Sahel, and is widespread in Southern Africa. It prefers areas with cover, such as reeds and tall grasses, proximity to water bodies such as wetlands and savannahs. It inhabits grasslands, moorlands and bamboo thickets at high altitudes up to 3,800 m (12,500 ft) on Mount Kilimanjaro.[1][8] In Zambia's Luambe National Park, the population density was recorded as 0.1/km2 (0.26/sq mi) in 2011.[23]

    In South Africa, the serval was recorded in Free State, eastern Northern Cape, and southern North West.[24] In Namibia, it is present in Khaudum and the Mudumu National Parks.[25]

    Ecology and behaviour

     src=
    Serval has eyespots on the backs of its ears.

    The serval is active in the day as well as at night; activity might peak in early morning, around twilight and at midnight. Servals might be active for a longer time on cool or rainy days. During the hot midday, they rest or groom themselves in the shade of bushes and grasses. Servals remain cautious of their vicinity, though they may be less alert when no large carnivores or prey animals are around. Servals walk as much as 2 to 4 kilometres (1 14 to 2 12 miles) every night.[16][17] Servals 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.[8]

    Both males and females establish home ranges, and are most active only in certain regions ('core areas') within them. The area of these ranges can vary from 10 to 32 square kilometres (4 to 12 square miles); prey density, availability of cover and human interference could be significant factors in determining their size.[8][26] Home ranges might overlap extensively, but occupants show minimal interaction. Aggressive encounters are rare, as servals appear to mutually avoid one another rather than fight and defend their ranges. Agonistic behaviour involves vertical movement of the head (contrary to the horizontal movement observed in other cats), raising the hair and the tail, displaying the teeth and the white band on the ears, and yowling. Individuals mark their ranges and preferred paths by spraying urine on nearby vegetation, dropping scats along the way, and rubbing their mouth on grasses or the ground while releasing saliva. Servals tend to be sedentary, shifting only a few kilometres away even if they leave their range.[8][17]

    The serval is vulnerable to hyaenas and wild dogs. It will seek cover to escape their view, and, if the predator is very close, immediately flee in long leaps, changing its direction frequently and with the tail raised.[17] The serval is an efficient, though not frequent, climber; an individual was observed to have climbed a tree to a height of more than 9 metres (30 feet) to escape dogs.[5] Like many cats, the serval is able to purr;[27] it also has a high-pitched chirp, and can hiss, cackle, growl, grunt and meow.[5]

    Hunting and diet

     src=
    A serval in South Africa

    The serval is a carnivore that preys on rodents, particularly vlei rats, small birds, frogs, insects and reptiles, and also feeds on grass that can facilitate digestion or act as an emetic. Up to 90% of the preyed animals weigh less than 200 grams (7 oz); occasionally it also hunts larger prey such as duikers, hares, flamingoes and young antelopes.[5] The percentage of rodents in the diet has been estimated at 80-97%.[26][28][29] Apart from vlei rats, other rodents recorded frequently in the diet include the African grass rat, African pygmy mouse and multimammate mice.[8]

    Servals locate prey by their strong sense of hearing. To kill small prey, the serval will slowly stalk it, then pounce on it with the forefeet directed toward the chest, and finally land on it with its forelegs outstretched. The prey, receiving a blow from one or both of the serval's forepaws, is incapacitated, and the serval gives it a bite on the head or the neck and immediately swallows it. Snakes are dealt more blows and even bites, and may be consumed even as they are moving. Larger prey, such as larger birds, are killed by a sprint followed by a leap to catch them as they are trying to flee, and are eaten slowly. Servals have been observed caching large kills to be consumed later by concealing them in dead leaves and grasses. Servals typically get rid of the internal organs of rodents while eating, and pluck feathers from birds before consuming them. During a leap, a serval can reach more than 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) above the ground and cover a horizontal distance of up to 3.6 metres (11 ft 10 in). Servals appear to be efficient hunters; a study in Ngorongoro showed that servals were successful in half of their hunting attempts, regardless of the time of hunting, and a mother serval was found to have a success rate of 62%. The number of kills in a 24-hour period averaged 15 to 16. Scavenging has been observed, but very rarely.[5][8]

    Reproduction

     src=
    Two young servals

    Both sexes become sexually mature when they are one to two years old. Oestrus in females lasts one to four days; it typically occurs once or twice a year, though it can occur three or four times a year if the mother loses her litters.[30] Observations of captive servals suggest that when a female enters oestrus, the rate of urine-marking increases in her as well as the males in her vicinity. Zoologist Jonathan Kingdon described the behaviour of a female serval in oestrus in his 1997 book East African Mammals. He noted that she would roam restlessly, spray urine frequently holding her vibrating tail in a vertical manner, rub her head near the place she has marked, salivate continuously, give out sharp and short "miaow"s that can be heard for quite a distance, and rub her mouth and cheeks against the face of an approaching male. The time when mating takes place varies geographically; births peak in winter in Botswana, and toward the end of the dry season in the Ngorongoro Crater. A trend generally observed across the range is that births precede the breeding season of murid rodents.[5]

    Gestation lasts for two to three months, following which a litter of one to four kittens is born. Births take place in secluded areas, for example in dense vegetation or burrows abandoned by aardvarks and porcupines. Blind at birth, newborn weigh nearly 250 grams (9 oz) and have soft, woolly hair (greyer than in adults) and unclear markings. The eyes open after nine to thirteen days. Weaning begins after a month of birth; the mother brings small kills to her kittens and calls out to them as she approaches the "den".[5] A mother with young kittens rests for a notably lesser time and has to spend almost twice the time and energy for hunting than do other servals.[26] If disturbed, the mother will shift her kittens one by one to a more secure place.[20] Kittens eventually start accompanying their mother to hunts. At around six months, they acquire their permanent canines and begin to hunt themselves; they leave their mother at about 12 months of age. They may reach sexual maturity from 12 to 25 months of age.[5] Life expectancy is about 10 years in the wild, and up to 20 years in captivity.[31]

    Threats and conservation

    The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) lists the serval as least concern; the animal is also included in CITES Appendix II. A major threat to the survival of the serval include the degradation of wetlands and grasslands. Trade of serval skins, though on the decline, still occurs in countries such as Benin and Senegal. In western Africa, the serval has significance in traditional medicine. Pastoralists often kill servals to protect their animals, though servals generally do not prey upon livestock.[1]

    Servals occur in several protected areas across its range. Hunting of servals is prohibited in Algeria, Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Cape Province (South Africa), and Tunisia; regulations apply in Angola, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.[1]

    In culture

    The association of servals with human beings dates to the time of Ancient Egypt.[32] Servals are depicted as gifts or traded objects from Nubia in Egyptian art.[33]

    Like many other species of felid, servals are occasionally kept as pets, although their wild nature means that ownership of servals is regulated in most countries.[34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]

    Hybrid

    Main article: Savannah cat

    On 7 April 1986, a healthy hybrid kitten between a male serval and a female domestic cat was born; this kitten was larger than a typical domestic kitten and resembled its father in its coat pattern. It appeared to have inherited a few domestic traits, such as tameness, from its mother. The hybrid cat may have a doglike habit of following its owner about, and can be a good swimmer. Over the years, savannah cats have gained popularity as pets.[43][44]

    References

    1. ^ a b c d e Thiel, C. (2015). "Leptailurus serval". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2015: e.T11638A50654625. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2015-2.RLTS.T11638A50654625.en. Retrieved 15 January 2018..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
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    31. ^ Tonkin, B. A. (1972). "Notes on longevity in three species of felids". International Zoo Yearbook. 12: 181–182. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.1972.tb02319.x.
    32. ^ Faure, E.; Kitchener, A. C. (2009). "An archaeological and historical review of the relationships between felids and people". Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People & Animals. 22 (3): 221–238. doi:10.2752/175303709X457577.
    33. ^ Engels, D. W. (2015). Classical Cat: The Rise and Fall of the Sacred Cat. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-69293-4.
    34. ^ "Children, meet the new pet: a 3-stone African wild cat". 5 December 2017. Retrieved 6 April 2018 – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
    35. ^ "Wild Cat Hybrid Fad In California Concerning To Pet Experts". 5 November 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    36. ^ "Serval - San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants". animals.sandiegozoo.org. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    37. ^ Casey, Liam (6 October 2016). "Serval cat owner rails against Ottawa's exotic animal bylaw". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    38. ^ "Exotic pet laws in B.C." Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    39. ^ "Regulations Concerning the Private Possession of Big Cats: Canada - Law Library of Congress". www.loc.gov. 1 June 2013. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    40. ^ "Regina family fights to keep African cat - CBC News". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    41. ^ News, 69 (8 November 2017). "African serval rescued after found roaming Reading streets". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    42. ^ "Family with two young children become first in Britain to adopt Serval". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
    43. ^ "Blast from the Past: The Very First F1 Savannah" (PDF). Feline Conservation Federation. 51 (4): 32. 2007. (Original essay: Wood, Suzi (November 1986). LIOC-ESCF 30 (6): 15.)
    44. ^ Frater, J. (2014). Listverse.com's Epic Book of Mind-Boggling Lists: Unbelievable Facts and Astounding Trivia on Movies, Music, Crime, Celebrities, History, and More. California, US: Ulysses Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-1-61243-297-7.

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Distribution

    Distribution
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    Leptailurus serval (formerly classified as Felis serval) is a member of the family Felidae. African servals, originally found throughout Africa, now predominantly reside in southern Africa, especially in Zimbabwe and the province of Natal. Small populations are located in the Atlas Mountains, where distributions were greater prior to 1980. African servals have also been found in Algeria, Morocco, Ethiopia, and south of the Sahara. Due to relocation efforts, members of this species can now be found in northern Tanzania.

    Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Morphology

    Morphology
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    Adult African servals are slender, agile, and approximately 60 cm in length from shoulder to tail. Males weigh about 9 to 18 kg and females 9 to 13 kg. Their legs and ears are long and considered the largest in the cat family relative to their size. African servals have a coat with copper hue. Their ventral side and some of their facial features are white. They have black spots and stripes, which vary among each individual in size and placement. Individuals that originated from grasslands tend to have larger spots than those found in forests. Markings run from the top of the head between the ears and continue down the back breaking into four distinct lines. Upon reaching the shoulders, the lines break and scatter into spots along the same path of the stripes. Eventually reaching the rear of the animal, the spots elongate perpendicularly and merge to form the rings of the tail. The tip of the tail is black. The back of the ears are black with a white line between them. Occasionally, melanistic servals have been observed.

    Range mass: 9 to 18 kg.

    Average mass: 14 kg.

    Average length: 60 cm.

    Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; male larger

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

    Average basal metabolic rate: 1.44 W.

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Habitat

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    African servals are most commonly found in reed beds and grasslands, which primarily consist of Themeda triandra. They also spend time in forest brush, bamboo thickets, marshes, and streams within their home range. The average annual temperature within the geographic range of African servals is 13.7 °C and the average rainfall 826 mm/year. Members of this species in the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania are found at elevations between 1400 and 2200 m where winters are mild and there is occasional snowfall.

    Range elevation: 1400 to 2200 m.

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; terrestrial

    Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

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Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
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    African servals are crepuscular, hunting several times a night and early morning. If human habitation is close, servals may become nocturnal when hunting. Their diet consists of 93.5% small mammals (rats, mice, and shrews) and 5% birds with the remainder including occasional insects, frogs, lizards, and very rarely carrion. They have a hunting success rate of 48%, higher than other members of the family Felidae. This success rate was observed in successfully reintroduced and wild servals. Hunts early in the morning have a lower rate of success yet have higher yield of prey (about 10) than in the evening (about 6).

    To begin hunting, Afircan servals first scan the surrounding area. Ideal hunting spots are located along roads or trails, where there is good audibility on all sides and less noise is made when walking. Along their survey, African servals periodically stop and remain motionless for as long as 15 min. If a meal is detected, their ears prick up and rotate to pinpoint their prey. Once the location of prey has been established, servals slink forward. They pounce a distance of 1 to 4 m, with their front feet landing atop their prey. If prey is heard beneath the soil, African servals rummage, dig, and sniff to either reach or flush the critter out. African servals have more difficulty catching birds and insects. They have been recorded jumping as high as 1.5 m attempting to catch lesser flamingos, spoonbills, ducks, and other waterfowl. These animals are plucked before consumption.

    Serval kittens and sometimes adult African servals “play with” their food if prey are not immediately killed. Rats, mice, and birds are tossed in the air while snakes are allowed to scurry some distance away before caught again and bitten. Prey are generally eaten where they caught or along the roadside when undisturbed. Kittens suckle from their mother until weaned at about five months, when they attempt to venture out with her to hunt.

    Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; carrion ; insects

    Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Associations

    Prey species
    provided by EOL authors

    Servals have frequently been observed taking various foods ranging in size from small insects and rodents up to hares, young antelopes and duikers . They will also, on occasion, consume vegetable matter, such as grasses, bananas and avocados . Small amphibians, such as frogs and birds are also killed and consumed . The serval has, rarely, been observed feeding on carrion .

    The most common prey species are rodents from murid species such asArvicanthis, Dasymys, LemniscomysandMastomys,mole rats such asCryptomysandTachyoryctes,cane rats,Thryonymysand various ground squirrels all being frequently recorded . It is estmated that up tocirca95% of the serval diet consists of these small rodents .

    Species that are nocturnal and diurnal have been recorded as prey items and this fits with the activity times of servals which are mainly crepuscular with extended forays into daylight in some seasons and locales .

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    Associations
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    As a predator, African servals may limit growth of their prey (small mammals). Fecal matter deposition and meal remains may also act as fertilizer. African servals are host to a parasitic protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, and antibodies to the parasite have been found in the blood of servals.

    Commensal/Parasitic Species:

    • Protozoan Toxoplasma gondii
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    Associations
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    African servals have no major predators other than humans. Leopards and hyenas are the most probable competitors for food and territory. When African servals discover they are close to an individual of a rival species, they run away in confusing darting leaps.

    Known Predators:

    • humans Homo sapiens
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Behavior

    Behavior
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    Being a solitary animal, African servals only interact with other members of their species when mating, caring for young, or fighting for territory. Of all the sightings in Geertsema's (1984) 4-year study, 7.8% of observations were of social interactions, most of which was parental care. Chemical communication of adults is limited to scent markings emitted from urine and glands in the cheeks. The highest recorded number of markings was by a male when he was following a female, in which he marked 566 times in a 4 hour period.

    Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

    Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
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    African servals are estimated to live 10 years in the wild. The longest lived African serval in the wild was estimated to be 23 years of age. Servals in captivity live on average 22.4 years. One female at the Basel Zoo in Switzerland had her last litter at age 14 and lived 19.5 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    23 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    22.4 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    10 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    23.0 years.

    Average lifespan
    Sex: female
    Status: captivity:
    19.8 years.

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Reproduction

    Reproduction
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    African servals are solitary animals except when breeding. They are polygynous, and the territories of males overlap with those of as many females as possible for optimal reproduction. Although there is no set breeding interval, mating occurs more often in the spring. A female nearly ready to breed will hunt and court the male over several days, just before coming into oestrus. Oestrus can last as little as 1 day.

    Mating System: polygynous

    After a gestation period of 10 to 11 weeks, female African servals give birth to 2 to 3 kittens. These young, about 250 g at birth, double in size in their first 11 days. They are weaned in 5 months, and their permanent canines are developed by 6 months of age. Young African servals stay for up to a year with their mother until kicked out to find their own territory. Males take 1 to 2 years to establish a new territory. Sexual maturity occurs about the time kittens are independent, between 18 and 24 months.

    Breeding interval: African servals have no set breeding season, though increased mating occurs in spring.

    Range number of offspring: 2 to 3.

    Range gestation period: 65 to 75 days.

    Range weaning age: 3 to 5 months.

    Range time to independence: 1 to 1.5 years.

    Key Reproductive Features: year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous

    Average birth mass: 263 g.

    Average number of offspring: 2.5.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female:
    821 days.

    After mating, female African servals likely look for suitable dens in which to raise their young. Dens vary from dense shrubs to holes under rocks or abandoned burrows. The behavior of a mother changes to accommodate her young as she must forage for them as well as herself. Constantly hunting, she must deter her kittens from following her. In the late afternoons she rests before hunting for the next meal. Males provide no parental care for the kittens.

    Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
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    Increasing human populations and agricutural developement have reduced habitat for both African servals and their prey. This may lead to hunting of livestock, as it is an easy and highly nutritious meal. Though the impact of servals on agriculture is minimal, they are regularly shot on site by farmers. Reintroduction of captive-raised servals has been attempted, but there has been difficulty introducing them too close to human habitations. Studies have used radio transmitters to show that most effective releases are at least 10 km from humans at a site with sufficient prey. Although African servals are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, the subspecies Leptailurus serval constantina is listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

    US Federal List: endangered

    CITES: no special status

    State of Michigan List: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    African servals have become accustomed to people and motor vehicles due to tourism, farming, and relocation. Servals prey on rare occasions on dogs and livestock (poultry).

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    Benefits
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    African servals are part of the exotic pet trade. One domestic cat breed, savannah, is a mix between tabbys and servals. The pelt of servals is valuable and used to make mantles worn by chiefs in native tribes. Servals may also encourage ecotourism, which is common in Tanzania where most servals reside.

    Positive Impacts: pet trade ; body parts are source of valuable material; ecotourism ; research and education

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Other Articles

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    Orphaned young African servals at the Impendle Nature Reserve in Natal were hand raised and released into the wild. They were first fed a Darasol solution and water to maintain hydration. Once a little older, a supplement of 60:40 milk and water with Calsup (a calcium supplement) and vitamin drops were given. In time of weaning, minced chicken was fed gradually scaling up to dead, then live, mice.

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