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15 Jan, 2021
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The Sosian Serval

The Sosian Serval!- Article by Gareth Jones

The Sosian Serval Spotted In The Nairobi National Park

When driving in the Nairobi National Park, always be prepared for those “suddenly” moments when you see something rare or special. It is good to drive with your camera ON! and READY! next to you if possible, plus if you have binoculars have them out as well. Slow driving is obviously necessary for good sightings.

Well, such a “suddenly” moment happened recently when early in the morning I drove very slowly down the rough rocky road through the Sosian valley. In the long grass, I saw an impala ram, looking intently in one direction and giving loud “snorting” alarm calls. I could not see anything due to the long grass and thick bush, I suspected it might be a leopard hidden in the rocks? I then decided to reverse back and switch off the engine. After waiting for a short while a beautiful cat emerged, and began walking up the road. With the early morning sun shining directly into my eyes, I could just make out from the silhouetted profile that it was a serval. I noted that the serval moved off the road to my left. So I noted the approximate location ahead where the serval might be, and then drove slowly past and continued for more than 100m before stopping the vehicle at a slight angle, and waiting patiently, in the hope that this special cat would emerge from the long grass, and walk into the road again. After waiting a few minutes in silence, I saw the long grass moving and a beautiful serval cat emerged and walked onto the road. I sat very quietly to ensure that the serval remained calm and behaved naturally. After a short while, the serval cat walked towards my vehicle, then stopped and looked at me for a brief moment, before turning and walking off into the thick bush, no doubt hunting for breakfast.

The serval (Leptailurus serval) is a medium-sized African wild cat. Servals have the longest legs of any cat, relative to their body size. Most of this increase in length is due to the greatly elongated metatarsal bones in the feet. The toes are also elongated, and unusually mobile, helping the animal to capture partially concealed prey. Another distinctive feature of the serval is the presence of large ears and auditory bullae in the skull, indicating a particularly acute sense of hearing. To see a serval cat anywhere is very special, and the Nairobi National Park is a good place to find them. They are not common and are difficult to see due to their markings, some people could mistake them for a miniature cheetah, but they are much smaller than a cheetah. They also have a shy reserved nature and as a result, their habits are often sneaky and secretive.

It is also interesting to note that while servals do not kill large prey as lions and leopards do, they do however have what is believed to be one of the highest kill success rates out of all the wild cat species with a hunting success rate of 50%, they prey mainly on rodents, birds, reptiles, fish, frogs and insects. This is compared to lions where a pride averages 30% and a single lion only less than 20% success when hunting.

To see a serval cat anywhere is very special, and the Nairobi National Park is a good place to find them. They are not common and are difficult to see due to their markings and elusive shy somewhat secretive nature, They are quite small cats, that could look a bit like a cheetah, but are much smaller. Tip of the day – watch and listen, the alarmed impala helped with this sighting.

Next time you are thinking about what to do with recreational time, why not come and spend it in the Nairobi National Park, pack a picnic basket, relax and enjoy taking in the “Soul Tonic” of God’s creation.

The Sosian Servals – Written by Gareth Jones

The Sosian Serval
Gareth Jones – Nairobi Park Diary – A passionate writer & photographer

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