UKZN Serval Research Featured by Earth Touch News
Research being undertaken in UKZN’s School of Life Sciences on the African serval cat has been featured in a documentary produced by Earth Touch News.
The cats are threatened by increasing habitat loss, fire-break burning activities, vehicle collisions, snares, hunting by dogs, poisoning, and the illegal fur trade.
Post-doctoral Fellow Dr Tharmalingam Ramesh’s research details population ecology and movement of servals under current land use scenarios, and demonstrates the animals are important ecosystem indicators in monitoring the effects of changing natural habitats.
‘Although the serval cat has a wide distribution on the African continent, it has been the least studied, despite being so highly threatened,’ said Ramesh.
The documentary shows FreeMe KZN Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre’s release of a rescued serval cat into the wild with Ramesh’s help.
‘Managing serval populations requires greater understanding of their response to South Africa’s fragmented landscape structure,’ said Ramesh. ‘If current intense land use continues, populations of habitat indicators like serval are likely to decline.’
Wetlands, where the main rodent diet of servals is concentrated, are under constant threat of human destruction for agricultural and other purposes.
Ramesh recommends that sustainable, wildlife-friendly farming practices are adopted in the agricultural landscape mosaics, and that external pressure on core area habitats of wetland and forest with bushland is reduced. Following appropriate land management practices within the buffer areas is essential to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem.
Ramesh’s work has conservation implications for other endangered wetland-associated species such as the wattled crane, grey-crowned crane, and blue crane.
Ramesh is supervised by Professor Colleen Downs, and their study titled: “Impact of Farmland Use on Population Density and Activity Patterns of Serval in South Africa”, was the first to provide a robust population estimation of serval, and to document their response to changing land uses. The study is also the first to document the effects of wetland fragmentation on spatial resource selection and movement of servals using radio tracking devices.
More information on Ramesh’s research is available at: