A crowd flocks to the serval cat enclosure at Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo’s Hino to watch a feline jumping a few meters to grab a strip of meat. (Toshiyuki Takeya and Minako Noguchi)

Even on a slow weekday afternoon, more than 70 visitors surrounded an enclosure at Tama Zoological Park in Tokyo’s Hino to see one of the zoo's new star attractions.

As Apollo, a year and half old male serval cat, effortlessly jumped and bit off chunks of horse meat hanging at a height of 2.5 meters, the crowd cheered in delight and amazement.

The popularity is due to an anime series that evolves around characters designed after wild animals and which became a hit at the beginning of this year.

“Kemono Friends” (beasts friends) was aired from January at late night. It tells of the adventures in a huge safari park by personified animals portrayed as young girls.

The positive nature of the series where different species of animals repeatedly praise each other's unique ability captured even grown-up fans’ hearts.

After the end of the series in March, fans who lost their weekly pleasure on TV turned to zoos around Japan where they can see the real-life animals of the characters.

A serval, which is a feline that inhabits the African continent, played a central role in “Kemono Friends."

Now, servals at Tama zoo are among the rising stars, due to the popularity of the anime show.

Tama, which has more than 300 species of animals, has been keeping servals for the past 30 years, but the feline had never been in the spotlight before.

Another rising star is Keita Shinzaki, 24, a zookeeper at the Tama zoo. He appeared in the anime series as an audio commentator explaining about the various animals.

On April 24, Shinzaki was hosting the special serval jump show, which shows off the cat's ability to jump vertically to catch prey.

The zookeeper gradually raised the height of the meat to three meters, and the serval successfully managed to snatch a taste on all the heights.

A 34-year-old man from Fuchu, who saw the serval show for the first time, said, “I was surprised how he jumped so high without even a running start.”

“I would be happy if we can make the visitors even a tiny bit more interested in animals,” Shinzaki said. “I hope (the anime fans) take the opportunity to see various animals here when they come to see the servals.”

The dates of the serval jumping shows, which are randomly scheduled twice or three times a month, are announced on the zoo's website.