The San Diego Zoo has three Turkmenistan caracals, and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park has one that is trained as an animal ambassador, meeting guests up close and making television appearances.
Despite their secretive habits, caracals have been a part of humans’ lives for hundreds of years. In India and Persia (now known as Iran), they were used to hunt birds for sport. Owners would have contests to see how many pigeons their cat could bring down in a single try, often reaching 10 or more pigeons!
In some areas, however, caracals are considered pests. During lean times, caracals hunt livestock as an easy source of food. For this reason, many ranchers shoot a caracal if they see one. However, caracals also keep down the numbers of small herbivores that compete with the livestock for grazing areas.
Unfortunately, most of the Asian caracal populations are dropping rapidly, and new ways need to be found for humans to live with this stealthy cat.