Four servals five months on

23 August 2022


Rescued from Belgium’s illegal pet trade, with your support four servals have transformed at their new lifetime home in South Africa.

Born Free is over the moon to see how well four young servals – kept illegally as pets in Belgium and rescued by our Natuurehulpcentrum colleagues – have settled into their new lives at our section of Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary, since their epic relocation in March this year.

The sanctuary is nestled in the South African landscape near Cape Town and the servals already look at home. As you can see, they have noticeably become more relaxed and comfortable in their spacious enclosures, funded with the help of Born Free supporters and filled with natural vegetation to explore and purpose-built climbing platforms. The four were temporarily named after the towns in Belgium where they were seized by authorities, but each has now received a new name, symbolic of their new start in their ancestral homeland (in order from top left to bottom right of image): Lekanya (previously known as ‘Diepenbeek’), Mahaba (previously ‘Roeselare’), Kamogelo (‘Kinrooi’) and Balozi (‘Mechelen’).

“All four servals have settled in really well and are gaining confidence and getting to know their new home,” explains Taryn Shanna Blows, Head Animals Caretaker at Panthera Africa. “I have been placing their food in different spots to encourage them to venture up on their platforms and explore more of their enclosure. They all find it eventually and love their food, red meat being a favourite!

“In the first couple of months Mahaba, who is definitely the most shy, would wait until I had left to fetch his food, but now comes out to feed straight away. Lekanya, the youngest, is quite cheeky and acts like he expects more food, he is always ready for more! Kamogelo is the most vocal and makes the cutest sounds while Balozi loves to take his food to bed and eat in style in his nighthouse.

“The more comfortable they all become in their new home, the more their individual characters come out, and they are truly special to work with! I have started them on enrichment – boxes and scents to play with and explore. Lekanya especially responds so well to scents, he absolutely loves nutmeg and cinnamon.

“Each one of them loves to sleep in their nighthouse where they have a ‘teff’ (hay bed). Each morning I find a cosy little print laid into the hay where they have lain the night before. We have had some cold nights so it’s great that they use their nighthouses!”

What a privilege to be able to look after such remarkable animals and play a part in their new lives. Born Free pays 100% of their care and it costs us £12,598 for all four per year. Could you help? We are committed to supporting them for their entire lives and you can help by donating.

Many wild cats are not so fortunate. In the UK alone at least 75 servals and 51 serval hybrids are kept in private hands.

Our work continues to persuade the government to reform laws on exotic pet ownership.