Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 18, 2014

Diet of serval (Leptailurus serval) on farmlands in the Drakensberg Midlands, South Africa

Tharmalingam Ramesh and Colleen T. Downs
From the journal Mammalia


The feeding ecology of a wetland specialist, the serval (Leptailurus serval), is poorly documented in regions subject to changing land use patterns. In this regard, we investigated the diet of serval by scat analysis from May to August 2013 at farmlands in the Drakensberg Midlands, South Africa. We recorded 17 species of prey remains in its diet, which included 10 rodent species, wild ungulates, the small-spotted genet (Genetta genetta), grass, birds, reptiles, and insects. In terms of rodent biomass consumed, serval mainly preyed on Otomys auratus (57.8%), followed by Rhabdomys chakae (13.4%), Dasymys incomtus (11.4%), and Gerbilliscus brantsii (5.9%). In addition, we compared the diet of serval in our study with that of a 20-year-old research in the same landscape. Small mammals were the main prey items of serval in both studies. Despite the high diet overlap and low variation in trophic niche breadth found in these studies, biomass consumption of rodent species varied considerably as servals were reported feeding on reed buck (Redunca arundinum), perhaps on fawns, in the present study. This feeding behaviour is probably related to the conversion of wetland habitat for agricultural activities. Given that wetland habitats support large populations of small mammals, which serve as prey for servals, wetland conservation is important in a mosaic agricultural landscape.

Corresponding author: Colleen T. Downs, School of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, 3209, South Africa, e-mail:


We acknowledge the financial support provided by the College of Agriculture, Science and Engineering of the University of KwaZulu-Natal under the Postdoctoral Research Programme. We would like to thank all the farming communities that gave us permission to conduct our research activities in their farmlands. We are grateful to M. Perrin for identifying some of the rodent species. We highly appreciate the assistance provided by the graduate students, especially by Mr. Bruce Humphries, during field work. We also thank R. Kalle for her comments on the earlier draft of the manuscript. We are most grateful to C. Brown and K. O’Conner for logistic support during the course of field work. We thank the two reviewers for their constructive comments.


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Received: 2014-4-9
Accepted: 2014-10-7
Published Online: 2014-11-18
Published in Print: 2015-11-1

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