Written by: Philip Mason
Meru National Park prides itself on the extraordinary diversity of game that its much varied habitats provide. Rich dense vegetation and the raffia palms of the higher areas give way to dry open savannah and thick comifera bush, interspersed with cool rivers. All of which offer a great variety of habitats for a diverse range of animals.
At Meru you may not see 1.2 million wildebeest, in fact you won’t even see one, but you will be surprised by all the other exciting animals you can see. This was never truer than for Leslie Daniel.
On a hot dry morning that had produced the normal plethora of sightings with wonderful interludes of big groups of elephant. People were thrilled at the diversity of game they saw, but they were even more than surprised at the sight of a jet black cat leaping out of its den in the river bank to try to take down a sand grouse. This jet black cat is a colour variant of the serval cat known as a melanistic serval.
Unsuccessful in its attempt to make a kill, it seemed happy to hang around for a photograph opportunity and show its better profile.
We have seen melanistic serval on several occasions in the park and judging from the distances between sightings there have to be at least two in the vicinity. Generally they are shy and retiring and if we are lucky we sometimes spot servals at dusk. In very dry conditions, they seem bolder which probably means they are hungrier and therefore more likely to come out during the day.
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