Serving the Servals: Unravel the Mysteries of a Wild Cat Species

Servals are medium-sized wild cats native to Sub-Saharan Africa. They are known for their distinctive appearance, which features a slender body, long legs, and a relatively small head with large, rounded ears. These wild cat species have golden-yellow coats with black spots and stripes that often get them mistaken for young cheetahs, tigers or even leopards. Servals also have white spots behind their ears to help cubs keep track of their mothers.

Quick Facts about Servals


Spotted Camouflage

The serval's tawny coat, adorned with black spots and stripes, provides effective camouflage within the dappled light of their savanna and wetland habitats. Cats like tigers have stripes, while cheetahs have spots. But servals have both, sort of. 

Although they don’t actually have stripes, some of the spots are close enough to look like stripes. This makes it hard to notice them in high grass. Interestingly, servals that live near woodlands have smaller spots that allow them to hide better in the tree shade. 

Long Limps and Powerful Leaps

Servals have the longest legs relative to body size among all felines. These propel them effortlessly through tall grass for a view of their surroundings. The combination of long legs and powerful leg muscles allows them to launch into impressive vertical leaps, reaching heights of 9 feet (almost 3 meters) to snatch airborne prey like birds.

Huge Ears


Servals can easily pass as the weirdest cats ever. Along with the extra-long legs, they have huge ears and a long neck. Surprisingly, these bizarre body parts make them one of the most successful hunters in the wild cat kingdom. They boast a 50% success rate, which is about 20% better than lions hunting with their pride.

These wild cats are not picky eaters – but they do not scavenge like most wild cats. That’s probably because they are great hunters – they can catch up to 10 frogs an hour when hinting in water. A single serval can kill and eat up to 4000 rodents and 250 snakes in one year. A typical serval diet consists of small mammals weighing 200g (7 ounces) or less. So, in addition to the above prey, they feed on rabbits, birds, lizards, crabs, and insects. 

Social Behavior

Servals are generally solitary creatures, leading independent lives outside of breeding season. However, these loners occasionally form temporary partnerships for cooperative hunting or defense against larger predators. During mating season, males and females come together briefly. The only long-lasting bond is between the mother and her cubs – and this often lasts for around a year before the grown cubs move out. 


Native Serval Habitat

Servals are native to various regions in Southern Africa. Their natural habitats predominantly include savannas, which are characterized by a mix of grasslands and open spaces. The tall grasses provide cover for stalking prey, and the open areas allow them to use their exceptional leaping abilities for hunting. 

These wild cats also inhabit areas with reed beds, where the dense vegetation provides additional cover and opportunities for ambushing prey. Some servals can be found in wetland areas, which offer a combination of water sources and abundant prey.

Can a Serval Kill a Human?

Servals are not known to be aggressive towards people. But they are wild animals with specific needs and behaviors that make them unsuitable as household pets. They have strong hunting instincts, are highly territorial, and engage in behaviors like scent marking. The cats also have specialized dietary and exercise needs that are difficult to fulfill in a typical household. So when you confine them within a home, they might end up experiencing stress, behavioral issues, and poor overall welfare.

Even with good intentions and resources, keeping a serval as a pet is not in the best interest of the animal, or the owner. Besides, legal restrictions pose significant barriers to owning servals in many U.S. states. Numerous states outright prohibit the ownership of servals and other exotic animals, while others necessitate special licenses or permits.


Are Servals Endangered?

Serval populations have declined over the years. However, they aren’t considered endangered save for the Leptailurus serval constantinus subspecies. But if natural history is anything to go by, the status of any wildlife species can change over time due to various factors such as habitat loss, poaching, and other human-induced threats.

The illegal activities of the exotic pet trade and poaching present severe and immediate threats to the well-being and survival of servals and various other wild animals. These practices are primarily driven by the demand for exotic pets, as well as the commercial value of animal fur, skin, and bones.

Sadly, the consequences of poaching extend beyond individual animals. It can result in population declines, reduced genetic diversity, and disruptions to ecological balance. Loss of key species like servals can have cascading effects on ecosystems, affecting prey-predator relationships and the overall health of an ecosystem as a whole.

Beyond poaching, habitat loss due to human activity also significantly contributes to the challenges wild animals encounter in the wild. Climate change is an additional factor that can impact serval habitats. Altered weather patterns, changes in vegetation, and shifts in prey distribution influence the availability of resources for the animals in the wild.

Denali’s Story


Denali is a 13-year-old serval at LTB. He was rescued from the Spirit of the Hills Sanctuary in South Dakota in 2016 following the closure of the sanctuary. But Denali’s journey didn’t start here. A military service member purchased him from a man who claimed to have acquired it from a zoo. However, by the time he was one, Denali had doubled in size compared to a domestic cat and outgrew the confines of the owner’s family's home.

So, Denali was taken to the Spirits of the Hills Sanctuary. But following a tiger mauling incident, the sanctuary was shut down, leaving Denali and others in need of a new home. Lions Tigers & Bears stepped in and took Denali.

This story underscores the issue of keeping exotic animals as pets. In all cases, it never works out for the animals, or owners. When the private owner is no longer able to care for the animal, they leave it up to the sanctuaries to care for it for the rest of its life. Sadly, the trade is booming, and the truth is more animals need homes than there are sanctuaries that can care for them.

Some of these animals end up in zoos, with breeders, or, in the worst cases, in canned hunting ranches or euthanasia. And even those who are lucky enough to find homes in sanctuaries still struggle with adjusting to new environments.Through their rescue and care efforts, Lions Tigers and Bears contributes not only to the individual lives of animals like Denali but also to a broader mission – shedding light on the struggles faced by wild animals kept in private ownership and the indispensable role that sanctuaries play in offering them a place to call home. Please consider donating, or becoming a member to help us provide a safe, caring and humane sanctuary for these beautiful creatures.

New Year, New Beginnings: A Call for 2024 Donors & Supporters


Animals play an important part in the stability of the ecosystem and our lives. They are excellent companions and contribute to the overall balance and functioning of the ecosystem. Even those in sanctuaries help preserve this delicate balance. They act as ambassadors for their wild counterparts, providing insights into their natural behaviors, habitats and conservation needs.

But sadly, animals don’t have a safety net in society or a voice of their own. Unless we step up as donors and supporters, many animals remain vulnerable to cruelty, exploitation, and habitat destruction. Others, like tigers and bears, even face the looming threat of extinction. As we usher in the New Year, it's a good time to extend our support to Lions Tigers & Bears (LTB) and other nonprofit organizations committed to the welfare and conservation of wild animals.

Why is Your Support Important?

As HuffPost puts it, we live in tough economic times. So many people are nervous about parting with any portion of their hard-earned money for public good. This means that charitable organizations, especially animal-oriented ones – are facing a hard time. It also means that it’s harder for these facilities to accomplish and maintain their goals, which include:

Animal shelters and sanctuaries must also cover overhead costs like employee salaries, facility maintenance, and food and medicine for the animals. But sanctuaries like LTB do not breed or sell animals. They also don’t get government funding for animal rescue. And since they exist to rescue and care for animals that have faced neglect, abuse or exploitation, it means they’re constantly committing to long-term financial burdens.


Caring for abused animals often demands more extensive medical care, dietary adjustments, and customized facilities, which stretches already limited resources. Without generous contributions from well-wishers like you, it becomes increasingly challenging.

How you can Help Animal Sanctuary

There are many ways you can help support accredited animal sanctuaries like Lions Tigers & Bears. From direct donations and volunteering to adoption and sponsoring, here’s how to make a difference:

Make a Direct Donation

One of the best ways to support our California animal sanctuary is through financial contributions. Every dollar adds up and makes a tangible difference in the lives of rescued animals. Donations may help cover the costs of supplies, daily operations, animal housing upgrades, staff training and payments, animal enrichment, community outreach programs and much more.

LTB has a secure online donation portal where you can easily contribute using a credit card, debit card or PayPal. Consider setting up a regular donation, even if it's a small amount. Recurring monthly or annual donations offer ongoing stability and allow us to plan for the future.


Host a Fundraiser

Hosting a fundraiser is a fantastic way to engage your community, raise awareness about animal welfare, and generate much-needed funds for the rescued animals at our sanctuary. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Volunteer for Animals

Direct donations and fundraisers are crucial – but it’s not always about money. Our sanctuary thrives on the dedication and passion of volunteers. Volunteering your time and skills is a great way to provide hands-on care and support to the remarkable animals who call LTB home. And you can do this through:

Direct Animal Care

Supporting Operations


Most volunteer positions require no prior experience, just a willingness to learn and a love for animals. LTB provides training and guidance to ensure you feel comfortable and prepared. And the best part is that you get to choose volunteer opportunities that fit your schedule, whether it's a few hours a week or a one-time event.

Sponsor an Animal at LTB

LTB offers symbolic adoption programs where you can sponsor an animal by contributing $25 or more each month. This money goes towards the lifetime care of the adopted animal. In appreciation, you’ll get a photo of your new furry family member, an official Sponsorship certificate and a personalized thank you note from Bobbi Brink, the Founder at LTB.

Donate Today!

Sanctuaries are perhaps the best place to regain the connection we have lost with animals. But they need ongoing support to sustain their vital work. That’s why we call upon you to support the Lions Tigers and Bears wildlife rescue in San Diego.

As we extend this call to action, we would like to thank our donors and everyone else who has supported our mission thus far. Your generosity has made a tangible difference in the lives of animals, providing them with a safe haven and an opportunity to thrive.

Join us in this journey to preserve the well-being of animals and to foster a world where the bond between humans and animals is cherished. Your generosity is the key to sustaining our work. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of the animals in our sanctuary.

The Transformative Power of Volunteering With Animals

There's something truly magical about the bond between humans and animals. It's a connection that transcends words, a silent understanding that touches the deepest corners of our hearts. If you are looking for a way to give back, volunteering with animals can be an enriching and transformative experience.

Not only does it benefit the animals and the organizations that care for them, but it also has a profound impact on you. From increased empathy and compassion to community involvement and a greater sense of purpose, here's a look at how volunteering with animals can transform your life.

The Connection between Animals and Human Well-being

Animals have a unique ability to uplift our spirits and bring solace during times of distress. Numerous studies have shown that spending time with animals can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure, and improve mood. The presence of animals releases oxytocin, often called the "love hormone," which fosters feelings of bonding and attachment. These effects extend even further when one engages in hands-on interactions, such as volunteering.

Responsible attentive young male volunteer caring for adorable hairy dog in animal shelter highlighting volunteer work mental well-being and professional development

Ways to Volunteer With Animals

You can volunteer with animals at a reputable and accredited sanctuary like Lions, Tigers, & Bears in various ways, depending on your interests, skills, and the types of animals you'd like to work with. These include:  

How Volunteering With Animals Can Transform Your Life

Woman volunteering in animal shelter emphasizing mental well-being professional development and personal growth

Volunteering at organizations like Lions Tigers & Bears isn't just about the animals—it's a journey of personal growth and transformation. At its core, it's about becoming more human. The act of caring for another being, understanding their needs, and responding to their emotions nurtures a profound sense of empathy. The responsibility of tending to the animals' well-being fosters a heightened sense of accountability. And the fulfillment derived from contributing to their happiness and comfort generates an unparalleled sense of purpose.

Here are some ways that volunteer experience can impact your life:

Make a Difference in the Lives of Animals

Volunteering with animals allows you to directly impact the well-being and quality of life of animals in need. When you contribute your time and efforts, you provide animals with care, attention, and love that they might not otherwise receive.

This sense of purpose and responsibility can bring profound satisfaction and fulfillment. Studies have shown that animal interaction can lead to increased feelings of happiness and contentment, and the act of helping animals can create a positive feedback loop of emotional and mental well-being.

Meet New People and Make New Friends

Volunteering often involves working alongside like-minded individuals who share your passion for animals. This provides a natural setting to meet new people and forge meaningful connections. Shared experiences and common goals can lead to the formation of solid friendships. A study published in the NIH journal found that volunteering can increase social integration and reduce feelings of loneliness.

Share Your Talent and Learn New Skills

Volunteering with animals allows you to contribute your existing skills and talents while learning new ones. Whether you have experience in animal care or are eager to learn, there are opportunities to develop expertise in animal care, communication, and teamwork. The acquisition of new skills can enhance your sense of personal growth and accomplishment. It can also add to your job experience, which is critical in professional development.

Feel Better About Yourself by Improving Your Self-Esteem and Confidence

Cat viewing itself as a lion in a mirror symbolizing volunteer work personal growth and job experience boosting self-esteem

The act of volunteering, particularly when it involves making a positive impact on animals, can boost self-esteem and confidence. Seeing the tangible results of your efforts and receiving appreciation from animals and fellow volunteers can lead to a greater sense of self-worth. Several studies show that longer volunteering is linked to a higher level of life satisfaction and self-esteem. The volunteer impact can also teach responsibility, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, all of which enhance confidence.

Combat Stress, Social Isolation, and Depression

Interacting with animals has been shown to have therapeutic effects on mental health. Spending time with animals can release oxytocin, a hormone that promotes feelings of bonding and reduces stress. An animal’s companionship and unconditional love can alleviate feelings of social isolation and depression.

Just the audio acknowledgement from a majestic animal like a lion or tiger elicits a connection with a profound effect. According to research, spending time with animals can lower stress levels and enhance emotional well-being.

Great Way to Get Outside

Animal-related volunteer work mainly involves outdoor activities, such as cleaning enclosures or participating in conservation efforts. Engaging in outdoor activities exposes you to fresh air and natural surroundings and encourages physical activity, which is beneficial for both mental and physical well-being. Lions, Tigers, & Bears is located in the beautiful hills of Alpine, bordering the Cleveland National Forest.

Remember that the transformative effects of volunteering with animals can vary from person to person, and the depth of impact often depends on the level of involvement and personal commitment. It's essential to choose opportunities that align with your interests and values to maximize the positive outcomes for both you and the animals you're helping.

Testimonial from Volunteers

As a volunteer, you will make a positive impact on the rescued animals that call Lions Tigers & Bears home. There are various rewarding opportunities to contribute, ranging from helping with fundraisers to building fences and caring for the animals. Each task plays a crucial role in the efficiency of our sanctuary. By volunteering, you'll experience the fulfillment of dedicating yourself to the commitment of helping animals in need.

As a volunteer, you may take on essential responsibilities such as food preparation, guiding visitors as animal ambassadors, cleaning the animal habitats, assisting the veterinary and keeper staff, performing general cleaning tasks, supporting daily educational visits, and even engaging in carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, fence building, and grounds maintenance.

Not only does volunteering benefit the animals, but it's also incredibly beneficial for your well-being. Studies conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service reveal that giving back through volunteering can lower rates of depression, reduce the risk of disease, and potentially extend your lifespan by several years. Even dedicating as little as two hours a week to helping can have positive effects on your health and the well-being of our beloved animals.

Say Hello to Tammi and Craig

Let's introduce you to two of our remarkable volunteers, Tammi and Craig. They have been a vital part of Lions Tigers & Bears for three years, overseeing the care of our livestock. Tammi and Craig provide invaluable assistance to our expert keepers by engaging in various tasks such as habitat cleaning, grooming, walking the animals, and feeding them.

The special bond they have developed with the animals, particularly with a miniature horse and donkey Spirit, and Jack, is truly heartwarming to witness. The trust these animals place in Tammi and Craig is evident in the excitement they display when the volunteers arrive to take them on walks.

For Tammi and Craig, volunteering at Lions Tigers & Bears not only brings joy and peace to the animals but also adds a sense of fulfillment and happiness to their own lives. The beautiful facility and the opportunity to contribute to the well-being of these wonderful creatures have made their volunteer journey truly enriching. 

Take the first step today. Contact Lions Tigers & Bears and begin your volunteer journey. 

Healing Hearts: Humans and Animals Helping to Heal Each Other

In a world marked by constant hustle and bustle, stress, and the challenges of modern living, the healing power of connections has never been more vital. One particularly heartwarming and scientifically supported association is the bond between humans and animals. Beyond their roles as pets, such as dogs and cats, animals have shown an incredible capacity to heal our hearts in ways that transcend the ordinary. In this article, we delve into the remarkable healing connection between humans and animals, focusing on how human-animal interactions can bring emotional, physiological, and cognitive benefits.

The Therapeutic Bond between Humans and Animals

The bond between humans and animals has long been recognized as an avenue for emotional and psychological support. Many can attest to the solace found in the company of a loyal dog, the soothing presence of a cat's purring, or the gentle nuzzle of a horse. Wild animals also hold the power to establish a therapeutic bond with humans, even those as majestic and awe-inspiring as lions, tigers, and bears. This connection taps into a primal and universal affinity between species, rooted in the shared life experience on Earth.

Studies have shown that spending time with animals can promote happiness and reduce stress.  Other studies found that animals can elevate mood, decrease loneliness and increase feelings of social support. In a world where stress-related health issues are on the rise, this discovery has profound implications for our overall well-being.

How Animals Help Humans Heal

Happy impaired teenager playing with his dog at home highlighting mental health healing trauma and stress relief benefits from animal human friendship

Animals can contribute to human healing on various levels, offering numerous seen and unseen benefits. Their presence and interactions can profoundly impact well-being, providing comfort and promoting overall health. Here's how animals can help humans heal.

Overcoming  Trauma and Challenges

The therapeutic effect of interacting with animals is particularly evident in individuals who have experienced trauma or challenging life events. Studies have demonstrated that time spent with animals can play a significant role in healing trauma. Whether through direct interactions with therapy animals such as dogs or cats, or engaging in activities at an animal sanctuary, the human-animal bond fosters a sense of safety, trust, and comfort. This bond can be instrumental in helping individuals gradually overcome emotional wounds and regain a sense of normalcy. Animals – especially those rescued from abuse or neglect – show people how to learn to trust again, heal from past traumas, and share that love and bond when they connect with the person.

Emotional Support

Domestic animals offer unconditional love, companionship, and a nonjudgmental presence that can be incredibly soothing. The act of petting a domestic animal, listening to its purring or rhythmic breathing, and feeling its warmth can trigger the release of oxytocin—the hormone associated with bonding and stress reduction. This emotional connection fosters comfort and security, making animals invaluable companions during distress,  loneliness, or sadness. Researchers have discovered that not only do people experience a surge in oxytocin when they gaze into the eyes of dogs, but the same result occurs when they look at exotic animals.

Therapy dog visiting a young female patient in the hospital showcasing emotional healing healing trauma and stress relief

Stress Relief and Mental Health Enhancement

The unseen benefits of spending time with animals extend to stress relief and the enhancement of mental health. Research has consistently shown that animal interactions trigger the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and reduces stress. Petting a dog or observing the graceful movements of a cheetah or lion can induce feelings of calmness, lower blood pressure, and ease anxiety.

Mood Enhancement

Animals have the power to lift spirits and improve mood. Spending time with animals triggers the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which play essential roles in regulating mood and pleasure. This can be especially beneficial for individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, or mood disorders.

Empathy and Social Skills

Interacting with animals cultivates empathy development and social skills. Caring for animals encourages individuals to consider the needs of another living being, fostering qualities of compassion and understanding. This empathy extends to interactions with fellow humans, promoting healthier relationships and improved emotional intelligence.

How Humans Help Animals

Young adult man adopting adorable dog in animal shelter showcasing stress relief mental health and therapeutic benefits

Just as animals provide therapeutic benefits and emotional healing to humans, humans can be crucial in healing animals, particularly those in vulnerable or challenging situations. Here's how humans can make a positive impact on animals:

Animal Welfare

Humans are responsible for ensuring animals' welfare in various contexts, from domestic pets to animals in captivity. Providing proper care, nutrition, shelter, and medical attention ensures that animals live healthy and fulfilling lives.

Supporting an Animal Sanctuary

Sanctuaries provide safe havens for animals that have been rescued from abusive or neglectful situations. By supporting sanctuaries like Lions Tigers & Bears through donations, volunteering, or spreading awareness, humans directly contribute to the well-being and care of these animals. The contributions create a ripple effect that extends far beyond the sanctuary's fences, touching lives in ways unseen yet deeply felt.

Conservation Efforts

Humans play a critical role in conserving and protecting animal species and habitats. Efforts to combat habitat destruction, poaching, and climate change are essential for preserving biodiversity and preventing the extinction of vulnerable species.

Stories Where Human-Animal Interaction Led to Profound Healing

At Lions Tigers & Bears, we have witnessed the transformative power of shared love for animals, which fosters profound connections of compassion and generosity among people. It takes a special individual to offer their attention, time, and energy to aid animals, and this commendable trait reflects their character, extending far beyond our sanctuary and into their communities.

In 2019, one of our devoted volunteers, Kenny, faced a devastating situation when his wife, Vicki, was diagnosed with kidney failure. For two years, Vicki endured ten hours of dialysis each day, with no guarantees as she waited on a transplant list. In a heartfelt plea posted on the Lions Tigers & Bears bulletin board, Kenny received three responses. One response came from our very own team member, Kathleen, who turned out to be a perfect match. In a remarkable act of kindness, Kathleen selflessly donated her kidney to Vicki, determined to save her life. The transplant procedure was a success, and today, Vicki is fully recovered and living a healthy, fulfilling life. This incredible journey began with a common connection to animals, demonstrating that animals not only offer therapeutic help to humans mentally and physically but also have the power to bring people together in support of each other.

At Lions Tigers & Bears, we celebrate the incredible bond between humans and animals, recognizing how it can inspire extraordinary acts of kindness and compassion. Our community stands as a testament to the profound impact of this connection, reminding us that when we come together, we can create miracles and change lives for the better.