Servals in Tanzania: The Graceful African Wild Cats

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Servals in Tanzania: Explore the fascinating world of servals in Tanzania. Learn about their habitat, behavior, physical characteristics, and conservation efforts. Plan your safari to observe these agile and elusive wild cats in their natural environment.

Servals in Tanzania


Servals in Tanzania are a captivating sight, embodying the wild beauty of the African savannah. These medium-sized wild cats, with their striking coat patterns and long legs, are not only fascinating to observe but also play a crucial role in the ecosystem. This article delves into the world of the serval cat, exploring its habitat, behavior, and the efforts being made to conserve this unique species.

Geographical Information


Servals are found in various parts of Africa, with Tanzania being one of the prime locations to observe these majestic animals. The country’s diverse landscapes, from the Serengeti plains to the wetlands of the Selous Game Reserve, provide ideal habitats for the serval.


The climate in Tanzania varies significantly, from tropical coastal areas to temperate highlands. Servals thrive in regions with abundant water sources, such as wetlands and savannahs, where they can easily find their prey.

Best Times to Visit

To maximize your chances of spotting a serval in Tanzania, plan your visit during the dry season, from June to October. During this time, animals congregate around water sources, making wildlife viewing more predictable and rewarding.

Habitat and Distribution

Natural Habitat

Servals prefer habitats with dense vegetation and proximity to water bodies. They are commonly found in grasslands, wetlands, and savannahs, where they can use their exceptional hunting skills to catch small mammals, birds, and insects.

Distribution in Tanzania

In Tanzania, servals are widely distributed across national parks and reserves, including the Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, and Selous Game Reserve. These protected areas offer safe havens where servals can thrive away from human encroachment.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Appearance

Servals are medium-sized cats, with males typically larger than females. They stand about 54-66 cm at the shoulder and weigh between 9-18 kg. Their coat is tawny with distinctive black spots and stripes, providing excellent camouflage in their natural habitat.

Unique Features

One of the most notable features of the serval is its long legs, which are the longest relative to body size of any cat. This adaptation helps them see over tall grasses and make impressive leaps to catch prey. Their large ears, which are also proportionally larger than those of other cats, allow them to detect the faintest sounds of their prey.

Behavior and Diet

Hunting Techniques

Servals are solitary hunters, primarily active during dawn and dusk. They rely on their keen hearing and agility to catch prey. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, birds, frogs, insects, and fish.

Social Structure

Servals are solitary animals, with males and females only coming together during the mating season. They mark their territories with scent markings and have a range of vocalizations for communication.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Females give birth to one to three kittens after a gestation period of about 74 days. The kittens are born blind and rely on their mother for the first few months of life. In the wild, servals live up to 10 years, but they can live longer in captivity.

Conservation Status


The serval faces several threats, including habitat loss due to agricultural expansion, poaching for their beautiful pelts, and persecution by farmers who view them as a threat to livestock.

Conservation Efforts

Conservation organizations in Tanzania are working to protect serval habitats and reduce human-wildlife conflict. Efforts include creating wildlife corridors, anti-poaching patrols, and community education programs to promote coexistence.

FAQs About Servals in Tanzania

Are Servals Dangerous to Humans?

Servals are generally not dangerous to humans. They are shy and elusive animals that prefer to avoid human contact. However, like all wild animals, they should be observed from a safe distance to avoid any potential risks.

Why Are Servals Known for Their Agility?

Servals are renowned for their agility due to their long legs and flexible bodies, which allow them to leap up to 3 meters in the air to catch birds in flight. Their large ears also help them locate prey hidden in dense vegetation.

How Do Servals Communicate?

Servals use a variety of vocalizations to communicate, including purrs, hisses, and meows. They also use scent markings to establish territories and signal their presence to other servals.

Can Servals Be Kept as Pets?

While servals are sometimes kept as exotic pets, they are wild animals with specific needs that are difficult to meet in a domestic setting. They require large spaces to roam and hunt, making them unsuitable for most households.

Travel Tips for Observing Servals

Best Safari Destinations

For the best chance of seeing servals in Tanzania, visit renowned wildlife areas such as the Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro Crater, and Selous Game Reserve. These locations offer guided safaris with experienced guides who can help spot these elusive cats.

Recommended Accommodations

Choose accommodations that are close to serval habitats, such as lodges and camps in the Serengeti or Selous. Staying in these areas increases your chances of encountering servals and other wildlife.

Essential Gear

When planning a safari to see servals, pack essentials like binoculars, a good camera with a zoom lens, and comfortable clothing suitable for the Tanzanian climate. Don’t forget insect repellent and sun protection.


Servals in Tanzania are a testament to the incredible biodiversity of the African continent. Their unique adaptations and elusive nature make them a fascinating subject for wildlife enthusiasts and researchers alike. By supporting conservation efforts and choosing responsible tourism practices, we can help ensure that future generations can also experience the beauty of the serval in the wild.