The San Diego Zoo’s first lynx residents were bobcats that arrived in 1922. A Eurasian lynx came in 1938.
Today, the Zoo is home to Siberian lynx (a subspecies of Eurasian lynx). Skyy and Stoli were gifts to the Zoo from a facility in Russia. Our pair can be found along Big Cat Trail. The two cats make good use of the “furniture” specifically chosen for them. Logs and palm stumps bear evidence of clawing behavior. A large honeysuckle plant creates a shady nook, and a fire-hose hammock in the front corner is covered with cat hair—a sure sign that it is a well-used lounging spot. Sturdy branches crisscross the open space, creating a choice of ways to get from one place to another, and a high stone ledge provides prime viewing of just about anything a lynx would want to watch.
Stoli is outgoing and quite food driven. He’ll rub against the mesh to get his keeper’s attention (and food), but he’ll hiss at the same time. “It’s a small cat thing,” the keeper explains. “They tend to be more cranky.” Skyy is more aloof toward her caregivers but is surprisingly playful when it comes to enrichment objects. She bats around balls and gourds just like a kitten would. She is frisky when it comes to food, too. Their keepers also rub spices and herbs on objects in their exhibit, such as mint, rosemary, cinnamon, and coriander. The only thing they haven’t shown an interest in is catnip!
Skyy and Stoli produced a cub but did not take care of her properly, so the little female was hand raised in the Zoo’s nursery. Named Kisa, she starred in the Animal Planet show “Growing Up Lynx.” The show followed Kisa’s progress during her first year, from her days as a cub to her training to become one of our animal ambassadors. She may be seen walking on a leash around the Zoo, being a part of our Camp Critters show or an animal presentation, or visiting a television studio to help spread the word about wildlife conservation. Read about her parents in the blog, Don't Miss the Lynx.
The world is not a safe place for lynx right now. They are having a harder time finding food as more people move into the cats' habitats. And in some areas, their forest homes are being cut down for agricultural uses. Hunting is still a problem for these beautiful animals, too. The soft, luxurious coat that keeps lynx warm and comfortable in the colder months is also popular in the fur industry, especially the lighter-colored belly fur. It is estimated that about 90,000 bobcat and lynx pelts are sold each year to fur markets. We think the coats look much better on the cats!
The Spanish lynx population currently numbers less than 150 individuals. Sadly, this makes them one of the rarest of all cat species and probably the most endangered carnivore in Europe. What caused their decline? The loss of their main food source, rabbits. In the 1950s, a doctor released a disease called myxomatosis to control the rabbit population in his garden. It worked too well, and the rabbit population was almost wiped out. Ironically, conservationists are now breeding rabbits, vaccinating them against the disease, and releasing them into the wild to replenish the wild rabbit populations and help feed the lynx.