What a fantastic sighting Kirst! I can imagine how excited everyone was to see this small, skitterish serval SS they are almost impossible to find- certainly more so than leopards. I’ve seen one once in Botswana, late afternoon for perhaps 20 seconds, not long enough to get a photo of it in the tall grass. They are so sleek and possess such beautiful head markings. I agree with you about the blurred photo- it shows excitement! I’m not sure what happened with your video clip, it wasn’t in your blog. Oops! Studio production error…..
One afternoon we headed into the open grasslands, not looking for anything in particular, but rather to enjoy the open savanna landscape and the general game that thrives in these areas. Moreover, the warm clear winter’s day was sure to make for an incredible and breathtaking sunset which we were looking forward to watching.
Just as the sun began to dim and the golden light started to fade, we heard a quiet rustle of leaves nearby, only to watch the faint silhouetted shadows of two rhinos wander past us as they too were on their way to the waterhole for an evening drink.
With it being winter and us in the open grasslands, the temperature dropped quickly. After watching the rhino disappear into the distance we climbed into the vehicle and began to meander our way back towards camp. There was a sudden flicker of the spotlight as Lucky signalled for me to stop. Still not sure of what he had seen, we looked closer and there, perched on the edge of a branch, Lucky had found a chameleon.
As we angled the light in different directions so all the guests could see it, I noticed a flicker of reflections beyond the chameleon. I was unsure of what it could be until we got a slightly better look. Two eyes facing forwards eclipsed by the tree with the chameleon. A guest piped up,
“Kirsten, what is that?”
I held my breathe as I knew what I had hoped it was, but I didn’t want to utter the words until I knew for sure.
“I know what I think it is, but I don’t want to say until I’m sure.”
As I started to reverse everything seemed to point to what I thought it was and I mentally checked my own criteria for identification:
- Habitat – yes, we were in the open grasslands
- Time of day- perfect, it was dusk
- Size – just above the long grass and
- Eyes – two, quite close together facing forwards
Lucky and I seemed to be thinking the same thing. As we edged back he immediately tried to see around the bush that concealed this animal from us.
“Kirsten what do you think it is?”
I went with the approach of lowering everyone’s expectations as I knew this animal was so ridiculously rare to see and started with something general:
“It’s a small cat… something like a genet, but a bit bigger.”
There in the hue of Lucky’s spotlight merely metres from us was exactly what I had hoped… a SERVAL. Grabbing Lucky’s arm I exclaimed,
“Lucks, its a SERVAL!”
Lucky in his ever so calm and collected manner, with a huge smile on his face replied,
“Yes, it’s a serval.”
The serval moved purposefully and slowly towards another bush. This was unexpected for me as they are usually very shy and secretive animals. As it stood in the open we could see its distinctive long legs and characteristic striking markings that start from their prominent ears and run down their long slender necks to their shoulders.
Their prominent ears play a vital role in their specialised skill of hunting rats, mice, rodents, and birds that live in the long grass as they act as a dish to capture any faint sign of the movements of potential prey. Their long legs offer them a vantage point to gaze over the long grass which conceals the rest of their body. We managed to follow it briefly as it moved from bush to bush stalking each with the hope of some unsuspecting prey awaiting. Unfortunately, as the serval moved deeper into the bush the rocky terrain proved difficult for us to follow- especially at night. We also didn’t want to disturb his night of hunting.
To try and bring you along, I wanted to share a short clip of the sighting that night. Unfortunately, the rocks didn’t allow us to move around but it was a great opportunity to see the distinctive markings run down its neck and observe this incredible cat for a short while. This reminds me that nature always has a plan. And that not looking for anything in particular often allows for the wilderness to creatively provide something delightful instead.
INSERT VIDEO HERE
They really are quite illusive, definitely excitement and a bit of motion too… All updated thank you, Denise!