Zuberi is a two-month-old Serval kitten whose name means “strength” in Swahili. His strength is exhibited by the playful exuberance he uses to approach life.
The small one (with the big ears) was born December 9 at Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro, Massachusetts, to mom Summer and dad Sav.
Summer is two-years-old and arrived at the Zoo about a year ago. The intention was for Summer to bond and mate with resident Serval, Sav. The pair are offspring of wild Servals, and their genetics are an important contribution to their captive-held species.
Sav, unfortunately, suffered a serious injury as a kitten and lost one of his legs. Keepers were not sure of his reproductive abilities, which makes Zuberi’s existence even more meaningful.
Zuberi and his mom are now on exhibit at Capron Park Zoo.
The Serval (Leptailurus serval) is a medium-sized African wild cat that is native to sub-Saharan Africa. DNA studies indicate it is closely related to the African Golden Cat and the Caracal.
The Serval can reach a maximum size of 59 to 92 cm (23 to 36 in) in head-body length, with a relatively short tail, 20 to 45 cm (7.9 to 17.7 in), and a shoulder height of about 54 to 66 cm (21 to 26 in).
The species is well adapted for detecting and capturing small animals in long grass. It also has the longest legs of any cat, relative to 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. The head is small in relation to the body. Another distinctive feature is the large ears and auditory bullae in the skull, indicating a particularly acute sense of hearing. The closely set ears contain 22 muscles each, allowing them to rotate up to 180 degrees independently of each other. Their adult weight ranges from about 7 to 12 kg (15 to 26 lb) in females, and from 9 to 18 kg (20 to 40 lb) in males.
The pattern of the fur is variable. Usually, the Serval is boldly spotted black on tawny, with two or four stripes from the top of the head down the neck and back, transitioning into spots.
The Serval’s main habitat is the savanna, although melanistic individuals are more usually found in mountainous areas at elevations up to 3,000 meters (9,800 ft). The Serval needs watercourses within its territory, so it does not live in semi-deserts or dry steppes. They also avoid dense equatorial jungles, although they may be found along forest fringes. They are able to climb and swim, but seldom do so.
The Serval is currently classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to the IUCN: “The major threat to Serval is wetland habitat loss and degradation (Thiel 2011). Wetlands harbor comparatively high rodent densities compared with other habitat types, and form the core areas of Serval home ranges. Of secondary importance is degradation of grasslands through annual burning followed by over-grazing by domestic livestock, leading to reduced abundance of small mammals.
Hunting is prohibited in Algeria, Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa (Cape province only), and Tunisia, and hunting regulations apply in Angola, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia (Nowell and Jackson 1996).
Servals occur in a number of protected areas across their range.”