The serval is much larger than the domestic cat. It is long legged, the hind legs longer than the front legs. Its neck is long and its head is small, with large, very erect ears. The serval’s coat is yellowish-tan, with black spots, bands and stripes. The tail is ringed with black, and the under parts of the body are white or light tan.

Servals are common on the savannahs 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

Serval Cats in iSimangaliso Wetland Park

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority has introduced two rare servals into the Eastern Shores section of iSimangaliso, complementing the small resident population.  Less than a dozen of these elusive creatures are currently thought to be found in the 230 000ha long iSimangaliso which offers the ideal habitat and wildscape.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority has introduced two rare servals into the Eastern Shores section of iSimangaliso, complementing the small resident population. Less than a dozen of these elusive creatures are currently thought to be found in the 230 000ha long iSimangaliso which offers the ideal habitat and wildscape.

The adult female (above, left) and young male (above, right) were confiscated from a farmer in Vryheid who alleged that he found them in snares in his farm. They were recovered by an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife District Conservation Officer and taken to the Emdoneni Cheetah Project near Hluhluwe, which has been in operation for 18 years. During this time they have successfully rehabilitated and released into the wild cheetahs, servals, caracals and an African wild cat. They have previously given iSimangaliso servals that were released on the Western Shores.

We are delighted to play our part in supporting an organisation like Emdoneni Cheetah Project in ensuring the conservation and protection of this rare and beautiful species. The Eastern Shores of iSimangaliso’s Lake St Lucia provides them with a wild, secure home away from inhabited areas and the threat of snaring,” said Andrew Zaloumis, iSimangaliso CEO.

iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said, “No matter how often it occurs, a reintroduction event of an endangered species in crisis into a secure area such as iSimangaliso is extremely gratifying, and an achievement we should all be proud of. The introduction of serval is part of iSimangaliso’s integrated conservation strategy with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to re-establish viable populations of the full range of game that originally lived in this part of southern Africa more than 75 years ago and in some cases became locally extinct. Other rare and valuable game already brought back includes elephant, black and white rhino, wild dog, tsessebe, oribi, cheetah and buffalo.”

Servals are listed as one of the “Threatened or Protected Species” (TOPS), due to their rarity. They are vulnerable to being snared and killed by farmers and in particular for their beautiful pelts.

The two new additions, which are still wild and not habituated to humans, were set free in the wide open grassland area where there is suitable habitat and plenty of prey. Servals eat mainly rodents, fish, birds, insects and small reptiles which are found in abundance in our natural wetland areas. Visitors on night drives will be lucky to spot them along with other predator species that include hyena, jackal, leopard and genet.

“It is fantastic to be releasing the serval cats into the pristine wilderness of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park where they are now free to wander in the wilderness without having to worry about any human pressure and can enjoy an abundance of delicacies of a well-balanced ecosystem. We hope we will see more of these threatened cat species being released in iSimangaliso in the future,” said Louis and Cecillie Nel, owners of Emdoneni Lodge with Cheetah Project.

iSimangaliso was also pleased to welcome Ms Fanny Douvere, Coordinator of UNESCO’s World Heritage Marine Programme, who was accompanied by the famous documentary, Thalassa, of the French main TV channel France3 to the serval release. Thalassa is producing a 30 minute documentary dedicated to marine world heritage that will be aired worldwide later this year. UNESCO’s 46 marine world heritage sites are considered “Jewels of the Oceans”. iSimangaliso was one of only two sites selected to represent these jewels in the documentary. In view of iSimangaliso’s close working partnership with Reserva Marinha Parcial da Ponta do Ouro and the proposed listing of Reserva Marinha Parcial da Ponta do Ouro with iSimangaliso as Africa’s first transboundary world heritage site, the visit was extended to Mozambique. Cross cutting issues include compliance; research; visitor management; managing disaster risks and large scale developments; community benefits and empowerment. A joint management framework is currently being drafted.

iSimangaliso CEO Andrew Zaloumis said, “No matter how often it occurs, a reintroduction event of an endangered species in crisis into a secure area such as iSimangaliso is extremely gratifying, and an achievement we should all be proud of. The introduction of serval is part of iSimangaliso’s integrated conservation strategy with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to re-establish viable populations of the full range of game that originally lived in this part of southern Africa more than 75 years ago and in some cases became locally extinct. Other rare and valuable game already brought back includes elephant, black and white rhino, wild dog, tsessebe, oribi, cheetah and buffalo.”

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