Diet, home range and movement patterns of serval on farmland in Natal.
Servals (Felis serval) are rare cats occurring in the Natal midlands farmland, Drakensberg mountains and in game reserves in Zululand. They are thought to be extremely uncommon on farmland, yet are sometimes caught and killed in predator control programmes. The objectives of this study were to determine home range, habitat requirements, population density and diet of servals and thereby propose management recommendations for their conservation on farmland in the Natal midlands. Radio-telemetry was used to determine home range and habitat requirements, while diet was determined using scat analysis. Prey availability and vegetation changes in the habitat were monitored seasonally. Servals range over areas of 15-30km², but concentrate their activity in wetland areas where their preferred prey, Otomys irroratus, are most abundant. Over 90% of serval prey comprises small mammals, which occur at high density in the wetlands, but low density elsewhere in the study area. The results of this project have highlighted the importance of wetlands to farmland ecosystems.