While we celebrated Mother’s Day, a caracal was preparing to give birth and be a mother to two healthy kittens. Very close to midnight on May 10, 2020, she delivered inside her nest box. They are the first caracals ever to be born at Nashville Zoo, and the animal care team has been keeping a close eye on them and wishing her a very special Mother’s Day.
Like human mothers, caracals need time to bond with their new offspring. No need for a “do not disturb” sign. The staff stays clear to give the new family their privacy but will monitor them using a small camera placed in the nest box. An online link to the camera allows keepers and the veterinary team to watch from virtually anywhere.
We are happy to report that our new mom and kittens are doing fine and will remain together for 7 to 10 days. After that, the animal care team will remove the cubs and continue to raise them in the Zoo’s nursery. The mother will return to an area away from the public view where she can relax with her mate and another caracal pair.
Raising the kittens by hand is a necessary and important step in socializing them to people. As they grow, the kittens will become ambassador animals for another zoo. The black tufts of their ears will capture the attention of onlookers who will wonder how a cat less than two feet at the shoulders can jump vertically up to 12 feet high. Guests will also learn that these cats developed this ability to catch birds as they fly by.
This species is important to conservation because they will help us interpret the woodland, savanna and acacia scrub habitats of Africa, the caracal’s native habitat. Guests will learn about the conservation challenges we must address on behalf of caracals. Challenges like habitat loss and trapping due to human conflict.
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