Panic spread through Etete on Monday when two primary school boys killed a serval cat, which was incorrectly identified as a cheetah.
Afikile Mthethwa (14) from Velani Township was with a friend, looking for mushrooms near a sugar cane farm when they saw the large cat.
According to his mother, Zodwa Dindi, the boys believed the cat was attacking them and Mthethwa defended himself, hitting the cat with a rock.
“His friend stabbed it with scissors, while Mthethwa kept on throwing stones at it,” said the mother.
The Courier obtained a photo of the animal and had it identified as a serval.
KZN Wildlife head of corporate affairs and marketing Musa Mntambo said serval cats are not generally aggressive animals but it is important to note that they are wild and their behaviour could not be predicted.
It is however rare that a serval would attack a human.
“If you see it in the bush, it will probably run away so we advise that you let it go. However, if you see it in your yard you can notify us to come and assist in having it returned to the wild,” he said.
The serval is an African wild cat that looks very much like a cheetah, but is much smaller, and has the longest legs percentage-wise of any cat species.
Servals can reach speeds of over 50 miles per hour, but they usually use their long legs for stalking and then pouncing on prey.
Perhaps the serval’s most remarkable characteristic is its enormous ears. The back of the ears are solid black with a large white dot on each.
The cats are active at dawn and dusk, hunting in the tall grass for small rodents and reptiles, but are also known to swat birds out of the air if the opportunity arises.
Although they spend most of their time on the ground, they will climb trees to escape predators.
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