PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo’s three caracal kittens will go on exhibit Saturday, Sept. 3, after spending much of this week acclimating to their new habitat.
Under the watchful eye of their mother, Peggy, the agile cats have been scurrying all over the caracal enclosure — chewing on plants, exploring hollow logs, hopping onto boulders and bounding after siblings.
“The kittens have been really active, since everything about their habitat is new and exciting for them,” said Asaba Mukobi, senior Africa keeper. “They are acclimating well and we feel they’re ready to be seen by the public.”
The Predators of the Serengeti exhibit, which includes the caracal enclosure, has been closed this week as the kittens experience their habitat and the great outdoors for the first time. When they venture out into the enclosure’s tall grass, each kitten chirps back and forth with Peggy so she can keep track of their location.
“On their first day out, the kittens would chirp when their mom was out of their view, and Peggy would come and get them,” Mukobi said. “She continues to be an excellent mother.”
Peggy and the kittens will have access to the caracal enclosure until 2 p.m. daily. Cricket, the kittens’ father, will then go on exhibit.
First-time mother Peggy gave birth to the kittens June 8 in a behind-the-scenes nest box. The three siblings have been healthy since day one and continue to grow rapidly. Keepers recently voted to name them Mkuze (“mih-KOO-zee”), Binti and Aziza. Mkuze, the male kitten, is named after an African wildlife reserve. The female kittens’ names are Swahili; Binti means “young lady daughter” and Aziza means “gorgeous.”
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, which was built with the support of Portland General Electric, is part of the zoo’s Predators of the Serengeti exhibit. The caracals have access to a heated den and a spacious landscape dotted with trees, shrubs, heated rocks and grassy knolls, all of which are enriching for the feline residents.
Caracals live in the woodlands and savannas of Africa, Southwest Asia and the Arabian Peninsula. While caracals are listed in the category of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, hunting and habitat loss pose risks to wild populations. The caracal is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. CITES is an international treaty controlling the trade of threatened and endangered plants and animals.
The zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission to inspire the community to create a better future for wildlife. Committed to conservation, the zoo is currently working to save endangered California condors, Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits, Oregon silverspot and Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies, western pond turtles, Oregon spotted frogs and Kincaid’s lupine. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
The zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily, and is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Zoo visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Call TriMet Customer Service, 503-238-RIDE (7433), or visit www.trimet.org for fare and route information.
General admission is $10.50 (ages 12-64), $9 for seniors (65 and up), $7.50 for children (ages 3-11) and free for those 2 and younger; 25 cents of the admission price helps fund regional conservation projects through the zoo’s Future for Wildlife program. A parking fee of $2 per car is also required. Additional information is available at www.oregonzoo.org or by calling 503-226-1561.