The Oregon Zoo’s two new Caracal kittens are now 6 weeks old, and they have just begun to explore their outdoor habitat in the zoo’s Predators of the Serengeti area.
Peggy and her kittens will have outdoor access from 10 am to 2 pm daily, weather permitting, but keepers say they will be easy to miss. “They’ve spent a lot of time out of view of visitors so far,” said Beth Foster, the zoo’s lead Caracal Keeper. “The space is still new and unfamiliar to them, so they’ve been hiding a lot, taking things slowly and sticking close to mom.”
Photo Credits: Michael Durham / Oregon ZooCaracals are elusive animals by nature, and even the full-grown cats can be hard to glimpse, according to Foster. She says the best time for zoo visitors to try their luck is right at 10 am, when they first go outside.
Under the watchful eye of their mom, the kittens ventured outside for the first time last week, toddling through hollow logs, hiding in the tall grass, and chirping for mom whenever they lost sight of her.
“Peggy’s been an excellent and very attentive mother,” Foster said. “When her little ones call, she comes right away to check on them.”
Peggy gave birth to the kittens last month in a behind-the-scenes maternity den. The two siblings have been healthy since day one and continue to grow rapidly. They now weigh about 2 to 3 pounds each and are just a bit bigger than domestic kittens — but with enormous paws and ears.
“They’re in their super-adorable phase,” Foster added.
ZooBorns introduced readers to the kittens, here, in early October.
Oregon Zoo Keepers recently voted to call the pair by the Sanskrit names Nandi (male) and Nisha (female).
Cricket, the kittens’ father, will be on exhibit after 2 pm. Cricket was born at the Lory Park Zoo and Owl Sanctuary in South Africa, and moved to the Oregon Zoo in winter 2011. Peggy came to the zoo in 2009 from a conservation center in Mena, Ark.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which coordinates nationwide breeding programs for many of the species housed by zoos, recommended Cricket and Peggy as a breeding pair because the cats are from the same subspecies.
The zoo’s Caracal habitat, part of the Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, was built with substantial support from community members and organizations like Portland General Electric. The Caracals have access to a heated den and a spacious landscape dotted with trees, shrubs, heated rocks and grassy knolls.
The Caracal (Caracal caracal) is a medium-sized wild cat that is around 3.3 feet (one meter) long. It is sometimes called the desert lynx or African lynx, but it is not a member of the Lynx genus. The Caracal is native to Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Central Asia, and Southwest Asia.
Caracals are listed in the category of "Least Concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); however, hunting and habitat loss pose risks to wild populations. Hunting Caracals is forbidden in sub-Saharan Africa, but only in about half of its range, as it is not protected in Namibia and South Africa. In those areas, it is considered a problem animal and is so abundant that landowners are permitted to kill without restriction.
Not all cute animals make good pets, and caracals — which can weigh up to 57 pounds and are capable of taking down an impala — have complex care needs that can only be met by people with specialized training at licensed and properly equipped facilities, such as AZA-accredited zoos. Exotic animal ownership laws also vary from state to state. Before purchasing an animal, petseekers can look up the species on the EcoHealthy Pets website, which ranks pets based on sustainability, invasion threat, ease of care and health risks.