- Fishing Cat
- African Lions
- Amur Leopard
- Bat-eared Fox
- Red Panda
- Snow Leopard
CaracalThey are a least concerned species, but the remaining number is unknown. We currently have 2 Caracals: Mkuze and Tera. Mkuze is very athletic and likes to catch food in his mouth when tossed to him. Tera enjoys attention from her keepers. Caracals live in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Caracals hunt by hiding in tall grasses and jumping up to 4 meters into the air to catch birds. Caracals are nocturnal and secretive, so little is known about them. Caracals can hunt prey about 3 times their size. Their ears have over 20 muscles and swivel around like satellite dishes to detect prey. They also use the tufts on their ears for communication. Caracals have historical and religious significance. They were used as gifts by Chinese emperors, used for hunting by Indian rulers, and is seen in paintings and as bronze figurines in ancient Egyptian culture.
Jonas is our female who is 9 years old. Wasabi is our male he is 10. Jonas has a fierce personality and is an excellent hunter, with very big puppy dog eyes. Wasabi is a more timid cat but very vocal well calling to Jonas. Fishing cats are called so because in order to catch their prey, they mimic bugs landing on the surface water by lightly tapping the water with their paws. They wait for the fish to swim to the top of the water to eat the ‘bug’ then the fishing cats swipes the fish out of the water. Fishing cats are big fans of water and will dive for fish as well. Fishing Cats are listed as vulnerable with a declining population.
African lions have exceptional eyesight. Their eyes are designed to see at night. Because of this, they are mainly nocturnal creatures, although they can be active during any time of the day. Lions are social cats, living in large groups called prides. Females of prides are related, and raise cubs cooperatively.
About the Memphis Zoo lions
Our pride consists of Jamela, Akeelah and Thabo. Jamela is lighter and brighter face. Akeelah has a darker, more rugged face. Thabo is the male with the large dark mane. The lionesses are full sisters and are 13 and Thabo is 12. For male lions the darker the mane, the more testosterone, the more dominant the male. Lions often sleep 20 or more hours per day, but they are very sociable and greet each other by rubbing heads and faces together-- Jamela does this often! They are the only cat that lives in a social group (pride) with a defined hierarchy. A pride may consist of 20 or more individuals. Males can stay many years with the pride or only a few months. Lions are extinct in 26 African countries, have vanished from over 95 percent of their historic range. Experts believe that there are only about 20,000 left in the wild.
“Dwyer” was originally a Barnum & Bailey Circus animal, who broke his back after the Circus train wrecked. Dwyer recuperated at the Memphis Zoo and spent his remaining years here, dying in 1913. He was a Nubian, or Barbary lion, and was one of the last of his kind.
A Lion’s Roar
A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away. Thabo has the loudest roar out of our lions.
Prince & Sultan
“Prince” and “Sultan” were two world famous lions who called the Memphis Zoo home. They were once part of a liondrome attraction – motorcyclists rode around in wooden silo-type rings with lions in their sidecabs.
When lions are born, they have faint, clouded spots, much like leopards. As they age, however, these spots begin to disappear. Lions are the only big cats that do not have noticeable markings when they’re adults.
Cat House Cafe
The now Cat House Café was once the Carnivora Building. The Carnivora Building was built in 1909. The Commercial Appeal Cat Country was built in 1993.
Jamela & Akeelah
To tell our girls apart: Jamela is lighter colored, and more outgoing. Akeelah is darker, and tends to hang out in the back of the exhibit.
There are 8 subspecies of leopard which include the African leopard, Indian leopard, Javan leopard, Arabian leopard, Indochinese leopard, Panthera pardus tulliana (Persian leopard), Sri Lankan leopard, and Amur leopard. The Amur leopard is critically endangered. There are only about 100 left in the wild, making them the rarest big cat (genus Panthera) in the world. Amur leopards live in southeastern Russia and northern China. They are the subspecies that have the most northern habitat of all leopards. Therefore, they are built for a cold, snowy climate and have much denser and longer fur than the other leopard subspecies. Like many endangered animals, Amur leopards face a complicated list of threats. Poaching, forest degradation and habitat loss, disease, inbreeding depression, and human/animal conflict all threaten the survival of the Amur leopard.
The Memphis Zoo is lucky to house one of these incredible, rare cats. His name is Sputnik, and he is adored by all of his keepers. The Memphis Zoo participates in the Amur leopard Species Survival Plan and we work very hard to do our part to save the Amur leopard. Sputnik came to us from the Greenville Zoo when he was just over a year old. He is a spunky boy and you can often see him stalking, pouncing, and jumping around his exhibit. If he gets especially excited about his enrichment, he will get the zoomies. Despite being playful and spastic, he is intensely focused during his training sessions. He LOVES to train. He is a very smart boy and hates being wrong. His favorite treats include chicken breast, horse meat, beef chunks, and goat organs like liver, heart, and kidneys.
Bat-eared fox inhabits two parts of Africa. One subspecies inhabits southern Africa and one subspecies inhabits eastern Africa. They are a very old species and actually aren’t closely related to many canids today. Despite their name, they aren’t part of the fox genus Vulpes. Bat-eared foxes are the only living species of the genus Otocycon. Their closest relative is actually an Asian canid called the Raccoon dog. Bat-eared foxes are the only true insectivorous canid. Most of their diet in the wild consists of termites. They use their large ears to distribute heat and locate bugs. It is said that they can hear an insect moving up to five feet underground. You can sometimes see the Bat-eared foxes listening to bugs underground on exhibit at the Memphis Zoo.
About Memphis Zoo Bat-Eared Foxes
The Memphis Zoo is home to three Bat-eared foxes including a breeding pair Raj and Helen. Raj is our older male and Helen is our breeding female. They had a litter of kits in 2020, Flora, Fauna, and Fern. Flora and Fern have since moved on to other zoos to start their own family groups. Fauna has some special medical needs and will stay at the Memphis Zoo for now. But don’t worry, Fauna is well taken care of and doted on by the veterinary staff, zookeepers, and her parents, Raj and Helen. Our female, Helen, is definitely in charge of the group. She dictates what the group is doing and even sometimes where they lay to take their afternoon nap. She is inquisitive and sweet most of the time. She does have an onery side and stirs up trouble every once in a while. She is very light in the face and has indent in her right ear. She came to us from the Brookfield Zoo when she was around 7 months old which is about the time they start dispersing from their parents in the wild. As with all 3 foxes, her favorite treats are mealworms and mice. They also LOVE boiled eggs which are given as a special treat on their birthday or holidays.Raj is our older male. He is 10 years old and he and his brother and father came to us from Oklahoma City Zoo when Raj was about 5 years old. He was recently diagnosed with diabetes but he does very well with his training and voluntarily allows us to give him his insulin injection every morning. He is very good mate to Helen and a dedicated father. He feeds his entire family before taking any food for himself. He is the steady rock of the family. Fauna is the most friendly of the three. She is the runt of the 2020 litter and was a “quarantine baby”. She pitter-patters around the exhibit and annoys her parents. She loves keeper attention and has no boundaries personal boundaries with other foxes and keepers.
Capybara, (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris)
also called carpincho or water hog, is the largest living rodent in the world, a semiaquatic mammal of Central and South America. The capybara is the sole member of the family Hydrochoeridae. It resembles the guinea pig of the family Caviidae. Capys are found east of the Andes on riverbanks, beside ponds, and in marshes or wherever standing water is available. Seventy-five percent of a capybara’s diet is only three to six plant species. Due to its dry skin, a capy requires a swimming hole as part of its lifestyle to stay healthy.
Water is a vital source of life for the capybara, as the animal eats water plants and grasses and uses the water itself to escape from danger. In fact, a capybara can stay underwater for up to five minutes at a time to hide from predators. The capybara has something in common with the hippo: its eyes, ears, and nostrils are all found near the top of the animal’s head. A capy can lift just those parts out of the water to learn everything it needs to know about its surroundings while the rest of its body remains hidden underwater. It uses those webbed feet (four toes on each front foot and three on each back one) to swim as well as walk.
The Memphis Zoo is home to three male capybaras- Phil, Pain and Hades. They are about one year old and they have travelled here from the Montgomery Zoo. Our three boys enjoy snacking and fruits and hay and playing with enrichment items such as browse, ice treats and any other items that focuses on their chewing drive.
Acinonyx jubatus jubatus
Cheetahs are listed as vulnerable, but scientists are calling for the species to be uplisted to endangered; with a current worldwide population of only around 7,000 individuals. Cheetahs are the world’s fastest land animal achieving speeds of up to 70 mph or more. Their true feat is their acceleration, going from 0-60 mph in less than 3 seconds, although this can only be sustained for extremely short periods of time. It can take up to 30 minutes before their breathing and body temperature return to normal.
About the Memphis Zoo cheetahs
Memphis Zoo is home to Dapper and Donovan – brothers born in September of 2013. Donovan is slightly larger and darker than his brother. Dapper has bigger eyes and is more vocal. One of their keepers’ favorite things to hear is Dapper and Donovan purring in the morning. Even though cheetahs are relatively “large” cats (weighing in at around 100 lbs each for our two) they are technically “small” cats because they cannot roar, though they CAN purr.
Cheetahs use their tail as a “rudder” when they run. It helps them to steer, and allows for sharp turns.
Cheetahs are unlike big cats in other ways – they cannot complete retract their claws. They also don’t roar; they purr.
Cheetahs, unlike other big cats, hunt mainly during the daytime. They have great eyesight, and can see prey from up to three miles away.
Cheetahs can cover 20 feet in a single bound.
A few cheetahs have black blotches, rather than spots. These are known as “king cheetahs.”
The word “Cheetah” is derived from the Hindi word “Chita” meaning “spotted one."
Mountain Lions have more common names than any other cat including: Cougar, Puma, Screaming Cat, and Catamount. The only sub-species of Mountain Lion left residing in the eastern part of the US is known as the Florida Panther. They are classified and Endangered. The puma has the largest geographic range of any land mammal in the Western Hemisphere. Approximately 4,000 pumas are killed by humans every year posing a significant threat to the species survival.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Romeo was on to something. Cougars go by many different names – puma, mountain lion, catamount, panther, mountain screamers, painter – but they’re all the same animal. Cougars have a large home area. In fact, it can take up to a week for them to trek from one side of their territory to the other.
About the Memphis Zoo cougars
We have one 8 year old female cougar at the Memphis Zoo, “Lakota Sue” often referred to by her keepers as Sue. Her favorite food is fish and she can often be found on her hot rock by the window in the cave off the boardwalk.Sue enjoys anything that smells like her neighboring Fishing Cat. Our cougar is the only cat that is wild-born. Sue was orphaned in North Dakota in 2012 when her mother was killed for sport. Orphaned cubs are typically the result of mothers that have been shot or were hit by cars. The Memphis Zoo has had cougars in our collection since 1952.
Cougars don’t roar, but they make many other sounds, including a human-like scream.
Cougars have rasping hooks on their tongues which can literally pull meat from bone.
Cougars can jump a straight 18 feet, from ground to trees or rock dwellings.
So why does the cougar have so many names? It depends on the people that named it. The Incas called it a puma. Early Spanish explorers called it gato monte and leon, which mean “cat of the mountain” and “lion,” respectively, hence the name mountain lion. South American Indians called it cuguacuarana, which was shortened to cuguar, and then cougar.
Jaguars are listed as Near Threatened and have lost about 4,000,000 sq miles of habitat since the 20th century. It is the only big cat (genus Panthera) living in the Americas and is the third largest cat in the world. Jaguars have the most powerful jaw of any big cat. They use this powerful jaw to hunt tough prey like turtles, caiman, tortoises, and armadillo and prefer to bite through the skull of their prey to kill them. Memphis Zoo is currently home to four jaguars. Philomena (aka Phili) is our oldest jaguar and she is the smallest of them all. Diego is our male and he is the largest. Phili and Diego bred in 2019 and Phili gave birth to two female cubs, Lulu and Bella. Lulu and Bella are now larger than their mother and are the only two jags you might see sharing the exhibit at the same time. The four jaguars rotate between the exhibit, indoor housing, and an exhibit behind the scenes. The easiest way to tell the difference between jaguars and leopards is to look at their spots. Jaguars have dots inside the rosettes and leopards do not. Diego is our only male. He came to us from Elmwood Park Zoo when he was about a year and half old. He is incredibly playful. His all-time favorite toys are the beer keg and the turquoise weeble-wobble. He loves to bang them against rocks and doors and make as much noise as he can, which as you can imagine, drives his neighbors crazy. He gets very upset if anyone moves or messes with his toys. For example, if we give it to the lions and he hears them moving it around he just sits and looks in that direction longingly and is in a bad mood the rest of the day. Diego is friendly with everyone, humans and other jaguars. He has a positive outlook on life and doesn’t take anything too seriously. We affectionately call him the big puppy dog of Cat Country. His favorite treats include anything edible. Jaguars will eat just about anything. But all the jaguars especially love fish. Phili is our breeding female. She came to us from the Brevard Zoo when she was about 3 and half. Diego and Phili were sent here to breed with each other. She is very small, even for a female jaguar and is half the size of Diego. She is dainty, feminine, and serious. She is very smart and loves to train. She enjoys interacting with Diego but otherwise prefers to spend time alone. She is very suspicious of new keepers and you definitely have to earn her trust. She became a first-time mom in 2019 and was an amazing mother. After about a year and half of raising her cubs, she decided she no longer wanted to live with them and is loving the empty-nester life. (This is within the normal timeframe that cubs would disperse in the wild.) Lulu is the larger, lighter female of the 2019 cubs. She has the same personality as her dad, Diego. She is light-hearted, positive, and brave. She doesn’t take anything too seriously and is friendly with everyone. She was the dominant one of the cubs when they were younger, but now she just allows her much more serious sister, Bella, to boss her around. She has a V pattern in between her eyes that was much easier to see when she was younger. For now, Lulu and Bella still live together. They occasionally get into a sibling squabble but most of the time you can see them cuddling together on exhibit. Bella is the smaller, darker female of the 2019 cubs. She has the same personality as her mother, Phili. She takes life very seriously and is much more dramatic than Lulu. She was the less dominant cub growing up but she learned to be scrappy and has recently found her voice. Similarly to many human families, she does not get along with her mom, probably because they are so much alike. The conflict between Phili and Bella was ultimately the biggest deciding factor to separate Phili and the cubs. Now Lulu just enjoys bossing her sister around. She is very smart like her mother and loves to train.
also spelled mierkat, also called suricate, is a burrowing member of the mongoose family (Herpestidae), found in southwestern Africa, they are unmistakably recognizable in their upright “sentinel” posture as they watch for predators. Most people know meerkats from the character Timon in The Lion King animated movie. However, instead of spending all their time with a warthog, most meerkats live in underground burrows in large groups of up to 40 individuals called a gang or a mob. For meerkats, there isn’t just safety in numbers—there’s also companionship. The mob is made up of several family groups, with one dominant pair that produces most of the offspring, but they don’t have to be related to belong to the same group. Meerkat mobs spend a lot of their time grooming and playing together to keep the family as a tight unit. This community existence helps the meerkats survive.
Rival mobs will chase or fight one another if they meet. Meerkats shelter in burrow systems having multiple entrances and measuring up to 5 metres (16 feet) across. Several levels of tunnels and chambers extend to 1.5 metres below ground. Each home range contains about five such warrens. Packs spend the night inside, and pups are born there. They also retreat into their tunnels for an afternoon rest to avoid the heat of midday.
They are a least concern species with about 500,000 remaining. We currently have 10 meerkats in our mob: Jameson, Ragnar, Little Shorty, Hazel, Cashew, Filbert, Ghost, Panini, Muffuletta, Reuben Jameson is the oldest meerkat and is the only current meerkat that was not born at Memphis Zoo. He came to Memphis from Brevard Zoo. All the other meerkats were born at Memphis Zoo with Ragnar being the first born followed by Little Shorty, then the quadruplets Hazel, Cashew, Filbert, and Ghost, and finally the triplets Panini, Muffuletta, and Reuben. The meerkats love foraging for bugs in their different puzzle feeders and other enrichment items. Meerkats live in deserts and grasslands in Southern Africa. Meerkats are highly social, live in female-dominated societies, and display altruism in their care for pups. Meerkats use a wide range of vocalizations to communicate and these vocalizations differ based on situational and environmental factors. Meerkats are omnivorous and consume a variety of items such as bugs, meat, fruits, veggies, and seeds. They can spend up to 5 hours a day foraging.
Ailuros fulgens fulgens
Red pandas, once thought to be related to giant pandas, are actually closer related to members of the raccoon family. Why did people think they were related to giant pandas? Turns out, they had a common ancestor that lived long ago. They were then classified in the same family as raccoons, but now, they’re in a group all to themselves.
About the Memphis Zoo red pandas
The Memphis Zoo has only had red pandas for a relatively short amount of time – since 1994. We got them when we opened Cat Country. Our red panda that lives here today is “Lucille.” Lucille was born at the Bronx Zoo. Lucille has much more white around her face.
Red pandas live at extreme altitudes, anywhere from 7,000-15,000 feet.
Red pandas, like giant pandas, feed on bamboo. Red pandas eat anywhere between 20-30% of their body weight in bamboo everyday.
Having trouble finding our red pandas? Look up! They love to climb, and are often found feeding on bamboo leaves or in trees, searching for food.
Red pandas were actually found and cataloged before giant pandas. They were the first animal to be called panda.
Are you looking at our website via the Firefox browser? Look at the logo – it was based off a red panda. That’s because their name in Chinese is “hun ho,” meaning “fire fox.”
The Memphis Zoo has had snow leopards in its collection since 1971. They could originally be seen in the Carnivora House, now the Cat House Café, before being moved, with the rest of the big cats, to The Commercial Appeal Cat Country in 1993.
Snow Leopards are a vulnerable species with about 3,500-7,000 individuals remaining and population decreasing. We currently have 3 snow leopards: Darhan, Ateri, and Denali! They can be identified with their specific features. Darhan has a dark colored coat, is larger, and has a thin tail. Ateri has a light-colored coat, and a large fluffy tip of a tail. Denali has a light-colored coat, is smaller, has Strabismus (Congenital eye defect that causes her eyes to look in different directions). The snow leopards love to lay up on top of the rock formation on the left side of the exhibit. They enjoy scent enrichment and like to investigate, rub on, and scent mark over new scents such as spices and perfumes.
Snow leopards live throughout the mountains of Central Asia in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Snow leopards have gray fur with dark-gray open rosettes that help them blend in to the Rocky Mountains. They are nicknamed the “Ghost of the Mountain” for their camouflage and elusive nature. Snow Leopards have a long thick tail that they can wrap around their body to use as a blanket or pillow. Snow leopards are solitary outside of breeding season from November-March Snow leopards face threats such as: Habitat loss, poaching, loss of prey, lack of protected area and protective legislation, and retribution killing by farmers.
At one time, there were nine subspecies of tigers. Today, due to habitat loss and poaching, there are only six subspecies of tigers remaining. There might be as little as 3,200 wild tigers left. Tigers are the largest living members of the cat family, and have the largest canines of any predator – almost four inches!
About the Memphis Zoo tigers
We have welcomed two Sumatran Tigers to the Memphis Zoo family. Gusti, our male tiger, is 4 years old and full of energy. He’s a big, muscular boy who enjoys playing in his yard with enrichment. Dari, our female tiger, is 7 years old. She is very friendly, always “chuffing” at her keepers when they pass by. She is quite a bit smaller than Gusti and she has very fluffy “cheeks”! She is a feminine and petite tiger whereas Gusti is more muscular.