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Serval

Northern Tanzania is rightly regarded as one of the world’s iconic mammal watching destinations. Immediate thoughts turn to images of thousands of wildebeest taking their yearly great migration across the vast plains of the Serengeti, from Ndutu in the south through to the Maasai Mara in the north, and the Ngorongoro Crater –where African Elephant wander the crater floor and Black Rhinoceros still roam free. The various parks and reserves of Northern Tanzania are also well-known for holding one of the world’s highest concentrations of wild cats. While Lion, Leopard and Cheetah understandably steal the spotlight, it is also home to three other species of smaller cat: African Wild Cat, Caracal, and Serval – a less well-known, but equally interesting feline.

Our featured species for this month’s image is the attractive Serval. As can be seen in this wonderful image by David Hoddinott, the Serval is a slender, medium-sized cat that is found in grassland and wetland areas throughout much of Africa. With a beautiful spotted coat, so typical of many of the world’s cats, the Serval is nonetheless unique enough to be placed in a monotypic genus, Leptailurus. Its unusually large ears are suggestive of its acute hearing. Once prey (mainly rodents) is located, it uses its extraordinarily long legs to pounce up to over 2 metres in the air to catch it.

Though widespread through the African continent, Servals are infrequently seen, owing to their reclusive behaviour, nocturnal habits, and preference for tall grass. Our extensive records clearly suggest that the magnificent parks of northern Tanzania offer the best chance at seeing this stunning species. During our upcoming Northern Tanzania Safari, we will have ample time to explore the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, and during our time spent here, we will be hoping for a sighting of a Serval along with the many other mammals, birds and other wildlife that thrive in this ultimate wildlife destination.

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