Appx. DOB 1/1/2009
Rescued on 5/5/2013
Ginger is approximately four years old and was bottle raised from a kitten. She did not have a name, so in keeping with the Gilligan’s Island theme she was named Ginger. Ginger was kept in a cage about 9′ x 12′. On one side of her two cougars were housed and on the other was an empty cage about half the size of hers.
That empty cage housed another serval who died a few months before the rescue. Sadly the serval had become wedged in between the door panels and died. It is unknown how the serval died. The dead serval was left in the cage for weeks before it was removed and dumped in an open pit just a few feet from the cage.
Ginger was the first cat at the Kansas property to be captured. She was netted by Big Cat Rescuers so volunteer veterinarian Dr. Justin and the Kansas City Zoo veterinarian could examine her. Despite living next door to two large intimidating cats, witnessing the death of her serval neighbor, and living in complete filth, Ginger was surprisingly calm during her capture and exam, and quickly adapted to her new found comforts at Big Cat Rescue.
Common Name: Serval Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Felinae (Leptailurus) Species: Serval (L.s. constantina)
Barbary Serval thought to now be Extinct
Misc: The name Serval is derived from a Portuguese word meaning “wolf-deer.”
Size and Appearance: Often referred to as the cat of spare parts, this unusual, but beautiful cat is among the feline family’s most successful. It has a small, delicate head and extremely large ears set on an elongated neck, long slim legs (hind legs longer than front), long slender body and a short tail. The ears are black on the back with a distinctive white spot, and the tail has 6 or 7 black rings and a black tip. The coat color is pale yellow with black markings, either of large spots that tend to merge into longitudinal stripes on the neck and back, or of numerous small spots, which give a speckled appearance. These “speckled” Servals from west Africa – called servalines – used to be considered a separate species Felis brachyura, until it was demonstrated that the speckled pattern was just a variation or “morph”.
Habitat: Servals are found in well-watered savannah long-grass environments, and are associated with reed beds and other riparian vegetation types. They occupy a variety of habitats all associated with water sources, they range up into alpine grasslands and can penetrate deep dense forests along waterways and through grassy patches, but are absent from rain forests. They will make use of arid areas in extreme instances, and have occasionally done so in parts of south-western Africa.
Distribution: sub-Saharan Africa, with small populations in south-west Africa, and a reported relict population in North Africa (no recent sightings confirmed).
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 73 days, females produce a litter of 1-5 kittens, with 2 being the average. They weigh in at around 8.5-9 ounces at birth, and it will take 9-12 days until their eyes open. They begin to take solid foods around the age of 3 weeks, and are independent between 6-8 months, but may remain in their natal ranges. They attain sexual maturity between 18-24 months, and it is at this time that they will be forced out of their mother’s territory.
In captivity, Servals have lived past 20 years at Big Cat Rescue and up to 19 years in other facilities.
Social System and Communication: Servals are solitary animals, and social interactions are limited to periods of mating. Each sex maintains its own territory. Hear our chirps, purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: Much like the big bad wolf in “Little Red Riding Hood” the Servals big ears are “the better to hear you with!” The serval’s sensitive hearing allows it to locate small mammals moving through the grass or underground, and to hunt its prey sometimes without seeing it until the final pounce. It also has the ability to leap vertically and catch prey such as birds, right out of the air. They do this by “clapping” with their front paws together and striking with a downward blow. Primary prey items for the Serval includes rodents, birds, reptiles, fish, frogs and insects. Servals have a hunting success rate of 50%.
Principal Threats: the main threats to Servals are leopards, dogs, and of course, man. Because of their beautiful pelage, they are a prime target for poachers. Their skins are sold as young leopards or cheetahs, which are much scarcer. The pelt trade for they are sold is mostly for domestic ceremonial, medicinal purposes or the tourist trade rather than for commercial export. There is also the issue of preserving the land that makes up their homeland, which is destroyed by human encroachment or from annual burning of grasslands. Some tribes hunt and kill the Serval for their flesh, which is considered a delicacy.
Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed.
Felid TAG recommendation: Serval (Leptailurus serval). Common in nature and captivity, this species is important for institutions with zoogeographic themes, as well as for educational uses. Most specimens probably can be traced to a subspecies. Currently, there are more servals in zoos than recommended by the RCP. The PMP target population is 80 individuals. 91% of the population is of unknown origin and not suitable for breeding. The first stud book ever was published for this species in 2003.
How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 292 in zoos worldwide, with 130 being in the U.S.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.
The first few minutes are sounds you might not have ever heard a tiger make, as Amanda Tiger does Operant Conditioning w/ Olga, our guest from Spain. After being away for a few days, Carole goes around checking on cats and takes note of what the volunteers and interns have been doing. Rare footage of Vern at Family Dinner too.
Cybil has some moderate liver enzyme elevations for which she will start a new supplement as well as worsening kidney disease which is pretty significant. She will be monitored closely now that she is back in her enclosure.
Cybil had a back leg that was fractured beyond repair and it healed very crooked. It was thought that someday we would have the leg removed, but she hops around just fine and the leg has not atrophied as expected. She is probably one of the meanest Servals that lives at Big Cat Rescue. She always greets with a hiss (as shown in this photo). Because Cybil does not like people very much she is not on the regular tour path. That way she will not be upset by visitors. Cybil is the perfect example that not all hand reared exotics will grow up to be docile.
Most of our servals were rescued from people who got them as pets and were not prepared for the fact that male or female, altered or not, they all spray buckets of urine when they become adults. Some were being sold at auction where taxidermists would buy them and club them to death in the parking lot, but a few were born here in the early days when we were ignorant of the truth and were being told by the breeders and dealers that these cats should be bred for “conservation.”
Once we learned that there are NO captive breeding programs that actually contribute to conservation in the wild we began neutering and spaying our cats in the mid 1990’s. Knowing what we do about the intelligence and magnificence of these creatures we do not believe that exotic cats should be bred for lives in cages. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE
Pharaoh’s coat is snow white and his spots are a silvery gray, just like his brother Tonga, although he has two unusual dark yellow spots and one black spot on his shoulder and his hind leg. There was a time when we believed that breeding exotic cats would save them from extinction and while that may be true we later concluded that it was not our right to impose captivity upon another creature to ensure that it would be here for the benefit of man. We ceased intentional breeding of all of our cats in 1997 and have long since managed to spay, neuter or separate all of our animals to prevent any accidental births.
Pharaoh was born at Big Cat Rescue before we knew any better back in the 1990s and his parents are Nairobi and Frosty. When we first began we only had the guidance of those who bred and sold cats and believed that what they said was true. We started breeding some cats under the misguided notion that this was a way to “preserve the species.” We had not then figured out what seems so obvious to us today, that breeding for life in a cage an animal that was meant to roam free was inherently cruel. Pharaoh’s parents Frosty and Nairobi, have since been neutered and spayed. We didn’t know it at the time, but they must have been closely related.
Pharaoh is very timid and only likes a select few people. He is however always curious of passerby’s. In order to gain Pharaoh’s trust of a greater number of keepers he participates in the operant conditioning program. He is doing very well in the program and quickly learned to keep a look out for trainers as they head out in the morning. If he is passed by he will call out in his loud serval cry as if to say, “What about me?”. Pharaoh always puts a smile on keeper’s faces with his silly antics. He will burst through the high grasses of his enclosure to surprise keepers cleaning his Cat.a.tat and then quickly hop back into the grass before tearing around the corner and leaping on top of his cave den. Pharaoh also loves water and will spend hours swatting at a stream of water shot out of the hose.
Because white footed servals and white servals are rare, people will pay to see them, so breeders will inbreed to get the defective genes that produce the un natural coat color. They cannot survive in the wild because they could not hide from predators and cannot sneak up on prey even if they did manage to survive to adulthood. They do not live where it snows. There are only a handful of white footed servals in the world and only two white servals that are known to exist. These are not albinos as they have pale blue to green eyes and some golden patches. They are born and mature approximately 20% larger than the normal colored servals. For the first year, their health is much more delicate and we have never known of white serval females to survive more than two weeks. We will not sell (although we’ve been offered $75,000.00 each) nor allow others to breed to our white servals because we do not want them to be exploited and the only way we can control that is to control their offspring. The demand for white tigers causes many of the normal colored cubs, born to these litters, to be destroyed. We will not be a part of anything that could cause the same to happen to golden colored servals. We do not breed cats, nor sell cats at Big Cat Rescue.
Most of our servals were rescued from people who got them as pets and were not prepared for the fact that male or female, altered or not, they all spray buckets of urine when they become adults. Some were being sold at auction where taxidermists would buy them and club them to death in the parking lot, but a few were born here in the early days when we were ignorant of the truth and were being told by the breeders and dealers that these cats should be bred for “conservation.” Once we learned that there are NO captive breeding programs that actually contribute to conservation in the wild we began neutering and spaying our cats in the mid 1990’s. Knowing what we do about the intelligence and magnificence of these creatures we do not believe that exotic cats should be bred for lives in cages. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE