6-week-old caracal kittens venture outside

With mom by their side, young caracal kittens begin to explore their outdoor habitat

The Oregon Zoo's two new caracal kittens are 6 weeks old now, 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 a.m. to 2 p.m. for the next several days — 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."

Caracals 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 visitors to try their luck is right at 10 a.m., when they first go outside.

Under the watchful eye of their mom, the kittens ventured outside for the first time on Wednesday — 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 said.

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 p.m. 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 Oregon Zoo is a service of Metro and is dedicated to its mission of inspiring 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 and Oregon spotted frogs. Other projects include studies on black rhinos, Asian elephants, polar bears and bats.
 
The zoo relies in part on community support through donations to the Oregon Zoo Foundation to undertake these and many other animal welfare, education and sustainability programs. The zoo is located five minutes from downtown Portland, just off Highway 26 at exit 72. The zoo is also accessible by MAX light rail line. Visitors who travel to the zoo via MAX receive $1.50 off zoo admission. Find fare and route information online or by calling TriMet Customer Service at 503-238-RIDE (7433).
 
General zoo 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 $4 per car is also required. Additional information is available by calling 503-226-1561.

Media contact: 

Hova Najarian | 503-220-5714 | hova.najarian@oregonzoo.org