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Melanistic serval in Serengeti, Tanzania
A rare sighting indeed at Lemala Nanyukie Tented Lodge in Tanzania, where this melanistic serval has been seen regularly over recent weeks © R.A. Phillips

Written by Rebecca Phillips

There has been a rustle of excitement amongst experienced guides and safari goers as a rare melanistic serval has been recorded in the eastern plains of the Serengeti near Lemala Nanyukie as the words “paka mweusi” (“black cat”) get murmured between passing vehicles.

Melanistic serval in Serengeti, Tanzania
© R.A. Phillips

For some it is a sighting worth sitting and waiting for, while other, less experienced guides look confused not knowing what a “paka mweusi” is. Having never seen a black cat on safari before they tend to hurry on to find the next thing on the safari checklist.

Melanistic serval in Serengeti, Tanzania
© R.A. Phillips

Caused by a recessive gene that produces excessive melanin and turns the serval’s coat completely black, rather than its usual golden spotted pelt, makes the serval stand out during the daytime.

And for those that spot it they are awarded with a sighting of a lifetime, a sighting that the experienced guides will brag about for years to come.

Melanistic serval in Serengeti, Tanzania
© R.A. Phillips

Contrary to the common superstition around black cats, in the Serengeti it is incredibly good luck to spot a black cat crossing the dirt road! With only four records of black servals in East Africa,  it truly is the holy grail of safari sightings.

Melanistic serval in Serengeti, Tanzania
Having such a black coat must make this small carnivore a hugely successful hunter at night! © R.A. Phillips
Kafunta Safaris
Lemala Camps and Lodges

Lemala presents an authentic collection of intimate tented camps, classic lodges and refined villas in northern Tanzania. With properties in Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, we offer a fabulous safari experience throughout the famed Northern Circuit; a naturally splendid region of Tanzania and one of the most celebrated wildlife areas in Africa where the sheer concentration of game is simply phenomenal.