The name behind Africa’s Secret Seven is not so secret, these shy and elusive animals are part of the Secret Seven because they are so difficult to spot – despite not getting as much publicity as Africa’s Big 5, one should perhaps feel even more content as the privilege of witnessing one of the Secret Seven in the Madikwe Safari Lodge.

Model legs

These small to medium-sized felines stand just less than 25 inches at the shoulder and weigh around 25 pounds (11kg). Their height comes primarily from their long legs, which are the longest of any cat relative to their body size. It isn’t, however, only their legs that give them that additional height, they also have slightly elongated necks and ears which give them their unique and elegant appearance.
These long legs and lightweight bodies give them an incredible spring, which comes in handy when hunting for birds, insects, and small rodents. Servals are extremely agile and can jump as high as 9 feet vertically into the air and 12 feet horizontally. They use this spring to make a weapon of gravity as they land with enough force to stun their prey with a killer blow.

Talk about getting catty

Servals can be rather territorial and fight over rights to patrol a territory through relatively hostile “catfights”, where they arch their backs, raise their fur, bare their teeth, and lash out with their long front legs while hissing and growling. They will display similar behaviour when cornered or surprised by a possible threat.
When feeling more relaxed or content, servals also purr, in much the same manner as domestic house cats.
Despite this capability of aggression, they are no match for the larger predators in Madikwe Game Reserve and as a result, seldom live more than 10 years in the wild.

Serval Wild Cat at Madikwe Safari Lodge
Serval Wild Cat at Madikwe Safari Lodge

Cheetahs are very distant relatives

With their spots, slender bodies, very cat-like behaviour, and agility, servals have been confused with juvenile cheetah, however, they are two very different species. Cheetahs are believed to have descended from an ancient serval species, thus the similar characteristics. The closest relative to the serval in the Madikwe Game Reserve is in fact the caracal.

Join the super sleuth team to uncover the Secret Seven’s mysteries at Madikwe Game Reserve by booking your stay with us today!