12 Jul Several Serval join the ranks
It’s early morning and the mist hangs thick in the pine plantations, where we regularly venture on our Sunday morning birding expeditions. The light from the early morning sun penetrates the shadowy groves of antiquated trees creating a patchwork of green and gold. I’m distracted by firefinches on the side of the road when my father reaches out, fingers to his lips, and points behind us and as I turn to look, for a split-second I meet the burning eyes of a serval poised in the road. Having obviously meandered across the road behind us, he turns his head and within an instant disappears into the brush…a ghost cat.
For many, serval sightings are much like mine – just one second and they’re gone. For me, this was my only sighting, I was about five years old and the memory, twisted by childlike imagination and time, seems unreal.
When Running Wild Conservation asked Welgevonden if two rewilded serval to be released on the Reserve, we were only happy to oblige. Serval fit into the mesopredator category, a diverse term referring to small to medium members in the order Carnivora. This group plays an important ecological role by regulating prey populations that are not controlled by apex predators (invertebrates and small vertebrates) and can even play a role in shaping plant communities by preying on seed-eating species!
The two servals were rescued from the illegal pet and wildlife trade and had been rehabilitated and rewilded by the NGO. After taking some time to train the cats to enter the travel cages themselves, and avoid the need for drugging of the animals, the rewilding team finally embarked on their four-hour journey to the Reserve the morning of the May 6th. The releases went smoothly with the female bolting out and the male taking a more cautious approach, slinking his way through the bush.
Since the release of these prettily patterned cats on the Reserve, guests at various lodges have enjoyed incredible sightings of these two relaxed individuals hunting and going about their day-to-day business. Far from the fleeting glimpses that most, including myself have been awarded, they have put on a dazzling show and we consider ourselves very privileged to share our reserve with them (share in Inzalo Safari Lodge’s experience here).
Both servals are in good condition, indicating they are adapting well to life in the Waterberg wilderness, and we look forward to connecting more with them in the future.