Thanks to their mega ears—the biggest of any wild cat relative to body size—a serval can hear just about any peep on the savannah plains. A serval can site patiently scanning the grassy field like a watchful owl for its meal with its oversize ears. It will launch over the tall grass swiftly and pounce on its unsuspecting prey, guided only by sound.
Thanks to its extra-long legs, stretched-out neck, and gigantic ears, the serval is quite a successful hunter, catching an average of 50 per cent of all prey it hunts. It is one of the best hunters in the wild cat kingdom, and that’s about 20 per cent better than a hunting pride of lions.
The serval’s coat is its reliable camouflage tool as it can stalk prey and discreetly avoid predators throughout its home range. Cheetahs have spots, tigers wear stripes, but servals somehow have both. Although they don’t have actual stripes, some of their larger spots blend to give them the appearance of stripes. That makes it tough to spot a serval in high grass while it’s standing still.
Serval coats are distinctive to each individual; servals that live near woodlands have smaller dots than cats that spend time in the savanna. Those with smaller spots might hide better among the shade of trees. However, white spots behind an adult’s ears are supposed because the help cubs keep track of their mother during a hunt.
Servals mostly hunt rodents but are not fussy eaters like other wild cats. They eat anything small enough to catch, including snakes, grasshoppers, and even birds as big as storks and guinea fowls. They’ll occasionally wade into the water to gorge on frogs and other amphibians. A serval can grab up to 20 frogs in two hours of hunting in water.
Also, unlike many other wild cats, they rarely scavenge or eat other animals’ leftovers, maybe because they’re already such successful hunters.
Serval leads a solitary life, only coming together in pairs to mate for a few days.
Mothers bring up their kittens on their own. They will give birth to about two to four kittens, which are very difficult to observe, as the mother conceals them well and frequently changes hiding places.
The mother frequently leaves the litter to find food for herself and the kittens. She later drives the males out when the young are large enough to hunt. Young females remain somewhat longer, but when they become sexually mature, they leave to establish their territories.
Where to see the serval in Uganda
Although the serval is a native wild cat to Africa, it is rare in Uganda but widespread in sub-Saharan countries except rainforest regions. The serval was most recently assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2014 and is listed as Least Concern.