An unusual feline in a predicament

Sabi Sand | April 2020

I could never have imagined that my first ever sighting of a serval in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve would be of one in a tree! There it was, resting in a perfect ā€˜vā€™ of a dead knob thorn tree, whilst getting drenched in a downpour.

The chances of seeing a serval are seldom because these cats prefer areas where grass is abundant, and they are predominantly nocturnal, making it difficult to spot them. They have golden-brown coats, black spots and have black rings around their tails, making them easy to differentiate from other cats. In a predator dense area like the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, these felines sometimes fall prey to larger predators like hyenas, leopards, and lions.

They expertly hunt small rodents and other prey by using their acute sense of hearing and their ability of leaping into the air and then pouncing on top of their prey. A slender build with long legs and a short tail make it possible for servals to travel through dense marshes, open grasslands, and reed beds.

On this particularly wet day, the serval was very relaxed with our presence! It descended the tree as we made our way into the sighting, but luckily climbed back up just before we arrived to give us the most perfect view. Blasted with rain from the south east, the small cat sat and remained in the tree watching us and scanning over the grass below. Later on, we learnt that there was in fact another serval on the ground. We therefore believe that there was likely an altercation between the two and this one took refuge in the dead tree!