The Serval Cat (Leptailurus serval)

The serval cat (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’s coat is yellowish-tan, with black spots, bands and stripes. The tail is ringed with black, and the underparts of the body are white or light tan. Individual servals can be identified by their unique features; diverse patterns of spots and stripes, nicks in their ears, and variations in color distinctive from the caracal.

The serval cat has been observed in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest but is widely spread throughout Uganda. One can easily observe it in UWEC Zoo in Entebbe.

serval cat uganda

Servals are common on the savannas where there is plenty of water. They seem to prefer areas of bush, tall grass and dry reed beds near streams, but are found in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets. Black servals occur in Kenya’s high country.

Sunquist and Sunquist (2002) stated, that the Serval has quite specific habitat requirements, so it may be locally restricted to smaller areas within its broad distribution range; it is not found in areas of rainforest or desert like habitats.

They specialize in preying on small mammals, in particular rodents, with birds of secondary importance, followed by reptiles and arthropods, and they are notorious poultry raiders. They are quite successful hunters, catching an average of 50 percent of all prey hunted.

serval cat uganda

The serval is mainly nocturnal, but even in the daytime it can be difficult to see in tall grass. The serval 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.

It has a territory of up to 5 square miles that it continually marks by spraying urine on grass and bushes along the borders. The marking alerts servals in overlapping territories to keep their distance.

Ref: Thiel, C. 2019. Leptailurus serval (amended version of 2015 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T11638A156536762.