Serval in London Zoo - they are common in zoos. In the wild it's different. Photo by Kol Tregaskes (Flickr)
For serval threats and conservation I refer to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species® (IUCN) and the renown book, Wild Cats of the World (WoW). The former should be current (Aug 2010) while the latter was published in 2002. Things change in regard to the status of wild cats in the wild. The change is invariably worse for the cat.
The IUCN category for the serval (Leptailurus serval) is Least Concern. As can be seen from the range of categories below, this indicates that this cat is the least threatened of species of wild animal other than unclassified species:
The reason is because the serval is abundant and widespread. Set against this is the degradation of wetlands, a habitat for the serval within its range.
The serval range is almost exclusively south of the Sahara. Accordingly this assessment of Least Concern applies to this large sub-Saharan area. North of the Sahara, where the range is almost extinguished, the IUCN classify this cat as Critically Endangered, which is one removed from extinct in the wild (EW) as can be seen from the categories above. The servals there are in isolated sub populations of 50 mature cats and the total is 250 cats. Their range is in Morocco, possibly Algeria and reintroduced into Tunisia. The last reported sighting of servals in countries north of the Sahara was more than 30 years ago (as at 2002 - WoW).
The biggest threat is loss of wetland habitat. Wetlands are core habitats for the serval as it contains higher levels of rodents, the prime serval prey. Other threats are overgrazing and burning of grassland. This cat needs to live in grassland.
Next, is the trade in skins. In Senegal, Benin and Gambia skins are traded in "large quantities" (IUCN). They are exported to N.Africa.
The skins are valued in traditional medicine in Nigeria. The skins are also used for ceremonial purposes.
Next, the serval is killed by farmers in retaliation for preying on poultry. The cats put their long legs through the wire and fish the poultry out. Deterring the serval would be more sensible and kind as servals keep rodent populations down thereby assisting farmers. The serval is also killed through indiscriminate killing of predators by poisoning for example. They are also trapped in traps, which are set for jackal and caracal.
The serval is also hunted for sport in southern Africa.
The serval is declining in population in the west and extreme south of Africa (at 2002). At 2010 it is extinct in the southern tip of the African continent (IUCN).
At 2002 the serval was common in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. In Zimbabwe they are restricted "to areas where there is permanent water." (Wow)
The adaptability of the serval may allow it to survive longer than for other less adaptable species provided it is not persecuted. It can adapt, for instance, to using abandoned cultivated land.
When on one occasion servals were reintroduced into the wild it was a "qualified success" (WoW). This happened in the Rustenberg Nature Reserve.
Servals are common in zoos. They breed "readily" in zoos (WoW).