Education Corner Animal of the Month

"Piper" the Serval


By Scott Grooms

This month’s animal of the month is “Piper” the Serval. Piper is a resident of Bee City and was six months old on February 9th.

Piper loves the dog toys. Anything that’s big enough for her to carry in her mouth, she loves. The species is a native of West Africa and have the longest legs in comparison to their body of all the cats. Full grown the Serval will weigh 40 pounds and have 10-foot vertical leap and can actually snatch birds out of flight. People like to make Servals pets because you can actually teach them to fish.

The Serval is characterized by the coat which is basically golden-yellow to buff and extensively marked with black spots and stripes. The spots show great variation in size. Facial features include the whitish chin, spots, and streaks on the cheeks and the forehead, brownish or greenish eyes, white whiskers on the snout and near the ears, which are black on the back with a white horizontal band in the middle; three to four black stripes run from the back of the head onto the shoulders and then break into rows of spots. The white underbelly has dense and fluffy basal fur. The serval has a good sense of smell, hearing and vision.

The serval is active both by day and at night. Activity peaks in early morning, around twilight, and at midnight. Servals might be active for a longer time on cool or rainy days. During the hot midday, they rest and groom themselves in the shade of bushes and grasses. Servals remain cautious of their vicinity, though they may be less alert when no large carnivores or prey animals are around. Servals walk as much as 2 miles every night. Servals will often use special trails to reach certain hunting areas. A solitary animal, there is little social interaction among servals except in the mating season, when pairs of opposite sexes may stay together. It preys on rodents, small birds, frogs, insects, and reptiles, using its sense of hearing to locate prey. It leaps over 6 feet above the ground to land on the prey with its forefeet, and finally kills it with a bite on the neck or the head. Agonistic behavior involves vertical movement of the head (contrary to the horizontal movement observed in other cats), raising the hair and the tail, displaying the teeth and the white band on the ears, and yowling.

Mating takes place at different times of the year with a litter of one to four born each time. The kittens are weaned at the age of one month and begin hunting on their own at six months of age. They leave their mother at the age of around 12 months. Like many cats, the serval is able to purr it also has a high-pitched chirp, and can hiss, cackle, growl, grunt, and meow.

Piper can be visited at the Bee City Zoo.