Historically there have been up to 18 subspecies of serval, however the latest taxonomic revision proposes only three subspecies, although further research is required:
Leptailurus serval serval - Southern Africa
Leptailurus serval constantina - West and Central Africa
Leptailurus serval lipostictus - East Africa
Reference: Kitchener et al. 2017. A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN / SSC Cat Specialist Group.
The Serval cat's natural range is restricted to Africa (endemic), where they have a wide distribution, inhabiting the wetter areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
They are absent from the central tropical rainforests and the deserts in the north and south west.
Serval Distribution in Africa
Servals occur in 40 African countries across all five regions, but only marginally in North Africa.
List of African countries where Servals occur:
North Africa: Sudan, Morocco *
Central Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, DR Congo, Gabon
Extinct: Southern part of South Africa (Southern Africa)
Possibly extinct: Algeria (North Africa)
Reintroduced: Tunisia (North Africa) and southern part of South Africa (Southern Africa)
Reference: Thiel, C. 2015. Leptailurus serval. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T11638A50654625.Downloaded on 14 June 2017.
*The country links will take you to an adventure travel website that includes visits to national parks and rural areas in several of their tours. Many of the images show the typical natural environment and wildlife habitat of that country.
Serval cats are specialist carnivores that occur primarily in wetland habitat with long grasses in the vicinity of rivers and swamps. Even though their range is vast across most of Africa, Servals are only found in specific, suitable habitat patches within this broader distribution. Their most common habitat in Africa is moist grasslands.
The IUCN Red List has standardised habitat types globally and the following three types are of major importance for Servals:
- Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Seasonally Wet/Flooded
- Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks
- Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
The following vegetation types are also suitable:
- Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- Savanna - Dry
- Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical Dry
- Grassland - Subtropical/Tropical High Altitude