Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s three curious, climbing Lynx kittens have been spotted exploring their public exhibit. Born on May 8, 2013, the two males and one female have been in an off-exhibit outdoor habitat until they were big enough to maneuver the larger public exhibit space. The zoo invites guests to view the growing kittens and their parents – mother, Magina (mah-jee’-nah), and father, Kajika (kah-jee’-kah).
The three Lynx kittens are the first Canada Lynx born at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Often mistaken for Bobcats, Lynx are classified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as federally threatened and a Colorado state special concern. The zoo’s Lynx were paired together following a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan. The birth of the three Lynx is truly exciting. Yet, the story of the parents living together is extremely rare and unique.
In the wild, Canada Lynx live as solitary cats. They don’t live in pairs, don’t hunt together, nor do they raise their young in family groups. In fact, other than breeding, males and females typically want nothing to do with each other and males want even less to do with their kittens. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo strives to mimic wild-living arrangements in a captive setting, but in the case of Cheyenne's Canada Lynx, they didn’t appear to want to live like their wild counterparts.
When Magina and Kajika arrived at the zoo in 2007, they were both kittens. They were born to different parents, but were placed together for companionship. Under a watchful eye, they grew up together and due to their continued fondness for one another, the decision was made to leave them together permanently. During Magina’s labor and birthing, Kajika was given access to her, but shortly after the birth, per the recommendation of the AZA Lynx management group, Kajika was separated from the family to ensure the safety of the kittens.
In the weeks following the birth, Kajika was allowed to “howdy” through a mesh barrier with Magina and the kittens. During the “howdies,” animal keepers witnessed positive interactions, including greeting one another and friendly vocalizations. In recent weeks, the zoo has been working on slowly introducing the kittens to their father. If introductions continue to be positive, the entire family of five will soon be viewable in the main exhibit. Until then, mom and kittens will be given access to the larger public exhibit on their own.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of the first zoos in the United States to attempt to introduce a father Lynx to mom and kittens, according to the AZA Lynx management group. As with other feline species, Lynx sleep a lot, but these kittens have been seen most active from 3 – 6 p.m. daily.