- African Lions
- Amur Leopard
- Bat-eared Fox
- Red Panda
- Snow Leopard
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
We have three lions. They form a mini-pride, with sisters “Akeelah” and “Jamela” and their mate, “Thabo.” Thabo means “happiness” in Tswana, Akeelah means “wise” in Swahili and Jamela means “beautiful” in Arabic. Jamela is lighter and brighter face. Akeelah has a darker, more rugged face. Thabo is the male with the large dark mane. The Memphis Zoo has had African lions in our collection since 1906, when we acquired “Dwyer” from a circus passing through town.
“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 and have a tail that is up to 35-inches long that can wrap around them for warmth. They can run up to speeds of 35 miles per hour and have a horizontal leap of nearly 20-feet! 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. Although the situation with the Amur leopard is critical, there is hope for its recovery based on a similar situation with the species’ cousin, the Amur tiger. Nearly 60 years ago, hunting had placed the Amur tiger on the verge of extinction with approximately 40 individuals remaining in the wild. Fortunately, strong conservation efforts helped stabilize the species, which has grown today to more than 500 individuals. It is these continued, thoughtful, and sustainable initiatives that provide optimism in saving the Amur leopard from extinction.
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 native to Central America and South America. Currently jaguars are considered near threatened with decreasing populations in the wild. Jaguars are threatened by habitat destruction.
About the Memphis Zoo jaguars
Memphis Zoo is currently home to three jaguars; Arizona, Diego, and Philomena (AKA Phili). Diego, the male, arrived in September 2017, and Philomena joined later in July 2018. We now have another female named Arizona, who came in 2022. The jaguars rotate between the exhibit, indoor housing, and an exhibit behind the scenes.
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.
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.
The Zoo is now home to three snow leopards; Darhan, Ateri, and Denali! Ateri was born in June 2010 at the Tulsa Zoo. Darhan was born in May 2009 at Adirondack Animal Land in Albany, New York.
Snow leopards are usually solitary creatures, but Ateri and Darhan are quite compatible, and enjoy each other’s company.
The snow leopard's coloring is paramount to their ability to successfully camouflage themselves in their natural habitat. Found throughout Central Asia, they are efficient hunters. While exact numbers are unknown, it is estimated there are only 4,080-6,590 snow leopards remaining in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The Memphis Zoo currently has three snow leopards: "Darhan", "Ateri", and "Denali". Darhan is the largest of the three with a dark-colored coat and a thin tail. Ateri is slightly smaller than Darhan and has a light coat and a large fluffy tip of the tail. Denali is the smallest of the three with a light coat and a condition called strabismus, which is a congenital eye defect causing her eyes to look in different directions.
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.