Algeria’s Barbary Servals

The Barbary serval (Leptailurus serval constantina) is a species of serval endemic to Algeria, although there have reportedly been some sightings of these elegant felines in neighboring Morocco. While serval species south of the Sahara are plentiful, the Barbary serval was listed in June 1970 by the USFWS (United States Fish and Wildlife Service) as endangered, and there are concerns that it is on the brink of extinction. Major threats to the continued existence of the Barbary serval are being hunted for its skin, and being killed by farmers who want to protect their domestic livestock from attack.

Described as a medium-sized wild cat, the Barbary serval has a slender body, long legs and relatively short tail. Servals have the longest legs and largest ears relative to body size in the cat family. They are tawny in color with black spots and variable black bands. They are skilled tree climbers and their ability to leap a distance of almost four meters horizontally and three meters high is their greatest defense against predators – except when the predator is a human with a weapon. This leaping ability, along with superb hearing and vision, is also to their advantage in hunting down their next meal.

As carnivores, servals feed on lizards, birds, insects, frogs, rodents and, when the opportunity presents itself, domestic livestock. They are mainly found in savannah-type terrain and during the heat of the day they rest in the shade of bushes, with most of their activity taking place in the early morning and late afternoon, into the evening. As very territorial animals, both males and females scent-mark their territories, only spending time together long enough to mate. Following a gestation period of between 67 and 77 days, females give birth to between one and five kittens that will remain with their mother for up to eight months before heading out into the world alone.

When visiting the National Parks of Algeria, be sure to look out for the elegant and elusive Barbary serval.