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Tonga the White Serval is a Survivor

We recently received two servals at our local zoo and they are beautiful! Back at home I was looking for more information about these amazing creatures that reminded me a bit of a small cheetah, with their long legs and small heads. I found a story about some servals at Big Cat Recue in Flordia, one that was a bit sad about the health problems with big cats that grow up in zoos. Tonga, a rare white serval, had cancer and had to undergo surgery, poor thing!

A beautiful rare white Serval. Photo Courtesy of: https://bigcatrescue.org/tonga/

A beautiful rare white Serval.
Photo Courtesy of: https://bigcatrescue.org/tonga/

Tonga the White Serval

Source: Tonga the white serval at Big Cat Rescue

To our knowledge, only two white servals exist in the world: Tonga and his brother Pharaoh. The white coat is just the outward indication of the deleterious effects of inbreeding. Tonga was 15 years old when he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma. Although most arise without antecedent cause, in many species, especially in white cats, prolonged exposure to sunlight is a major predisposing factor. Being a wild cat, Tonga lives outside, and what cat doesn’t love to nap in their favorite sunny spot?

Source: Tonga the white serval at Big Cat Rescue

Tonga was born at Big Cat Rescue before we knew any better back in the 1990s.  When we first began we only had the guidance of those who bred and sold cats and believed that what they said was true. We started breeding some cats under the misguided notion that this was a way to “preserve the species.” We had not then figured out what seems so obvious to us today, that breeding for life in a cage an animal that was meant to roam free was inherently cruel. Tonga was born to parents Frosty and Nairobi, who has since been neutered and spayed.  We didn’t know it at the time, but they must have been closely related.

Source: Tonga the white serval at Big Cat Rescue

Tonga has a white coat and very few spots, the spots that he does have are silvery gray. Tonga is a shy cat that likes to keep to himself, except at feeding time, when he magically turns into your best friend in the whole world. Like many of the servals at Big Cat Rescue, Tonga loves enrichment involving scents. One of his all time favorite enrichment items were some pine tree cuttings. He rubbed all over these pine limbs and was soon covered in a mixture of sap and drool, his coat transformed from snowy to muddy. He made a bed underneath the pine limbs and this became his favorite napping spot for several months.

Source: Tonga the white serval at Big Cat Rescue

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