Serval sightings


Guide: Bruce Ellender
Outgoing: Night Drive
Camp: Tafika

We are extremely fortunate at Tafika to have regular sightings of serval on our night drives. Serval are lithe and elegant cats with long legs, a golden sandy spotted coat and large ears and eyes. These physical traits make them well suited to hunting in dense stands of tall grass. This is often evident as after a short glimpse they simply vanish into thin air. Serval are nocturnal, shy and secretive, making them very elusive in many areas. Although these cats are fairly widespread throughout Africa, their specific habitat requirements restrict their distribution to well wetted savannah’s. Areas of tall grasses the edge of watercourses or dense stand of reeds around wetlands are particularly favoured habitats.

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We recently had a fantastic sighting of a mother serval teaching its cub to hunt by presenting it with a maimed four-toed elephant shrew. The cub played with the prey for a short while but decided that it was too hungry to mess around with a free meal. Serval have a broad diet that includes insects, birds, reptiles, amphibians and small mammals. Serval have incredibly acute hearing, provided by their large cup-like ears, and once they locate prey it is either pounced on or given a solid slap with its paws. If birds or grasshoppers are flushed from the grass it uses aerial acrobatics to grasp them out of the air in spectacular fashion.

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Serval are predominantly solitary cats but can been seen hunting together as pairs around the mating period. Generally the young are born after a gestation period of 68-72 days during the summer months and litters can vary in size between one and three kittens. It is not known how long the young are reliant on their mother for but it is presumed to be at least one year. Tafika camp are very fortunate to be positioned near the Chichele salt spring and its associated wetland, stream and delta which are ideal serval habitat and one of the best places to view these magnificent cats in the Luangwa Valley.

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