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Big Cats

ENDANGERED

South African Cheetah

Cheetah Outpost at the Little Rock Zoo is home to two female cheetahs; Zazi and her daughter Maggie. Maggie and Zazi came to the Little Rock Zoo in June 2012 from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., which facilitates and promotes conservation biology programs at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  Cheetah Outpost exhibit features two yards for the cheetahs and two observatory decks for viewing the cheetahs in their habitat. The space is designed to hold up to five cheetahs and allows for breeding. The Zoo is currently working with the Species Survival Plan for the cheetah to develop a breeding program.

  • The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal. They can run 70 mph (or 110 kph), which is as fast as cars drive on the highway. The cheetah can reach its top speed in just 3 seconds!
  • The tail almost functions like a rudder on a boat because they use it to help control their steering and keep their balance when running very fast.
  • The cheetah has “semi non-retractable” claws (almost like dog claws) that work like the cleats on a football shoe to give the cheetah a lot of traction when running.
  • There are less than 8,000 cheetahs left in the wild, making the cheetah Africa’s most endangered big cat.

Despite the tremendous efforts AZA members and partners have committed toward saving the cheetah, the species is still declining at an alarming rate and there is a clear need to approach conservation differently. The Little Rock Zoo is an active supporter of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF). CCF actively works with local, national and international communities to raise awareness, communicate, educate and train. Please join our efforts to secure a future for this endangered species by donating to our conservation fund.

VULNERABLE

Clouded Leopard

Little Rock Zoo is home to a pair of clouded leopards; Rama and Suri.

  • This beautiful Asian cat, named for its spotted coat, is seldom seen in the wild, and its habits remain a bit mysterious.
  • Most cats are good climbers, but the clouded leopard is near the top of its class.
    Clouded leopards are one of the few animals—and one of only two cat species—that can climb down trees headfirst.
  • Clouded leopards can open their mouths to an impressive 100-degree angle!

Clouded leopards are victims of habitat destruction and illegal poaching. Their forest habitat is experiencing the world's fastest rate of deforestation. Clear cutting of forests for use as agricultural lands such as palm oil, is its primary threat, as the clouded leopard requires large tracts of forest for hunting. They are also widely hunted for their teeth, decorative pelt, and for bones for the traditional Asian medicinal trade. Clouded leopard pelts are the most commonly seen pelts on the illegal market. In 2005, more than eighty clouded leopard pelts were for sale in one market in Myanmar (Burma). Restaurants in Thailand and China that cater to wealthy Asian tourists also feature clouded leopard meat on their menus. Please join our efforts to secure a future for this species by donating to our conservation fund.

NEAR THREATENED

Jaguar

The Little Rock Zoo is home to two males, Cactus Jack and Malcom.

  • Like many cats, jaguars have eyes that are adapted for hunting at night.
  • Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere, and the third largest overall. Only lions and tigers are bigger.
  • A jaguar may go "fishing" by waving its tail over the water to attract fish, and then pouncing.
  • Jaguars hunt at night, and use tactics like ambush and stalking.
  • They are skilled swimmers and agile climbers.

We need your help! You can make a difference for jaguars. Please join our efforts to secure a future for this amazing threatened species by donating to our conservation fund.

VULNERABLE

African Lion

Our Zoo is home to Bakari, an African lion male, born in 2006. We also house two bonded sisters, Inara and Saphira, born in 2014. Their exhibit includes five bedrooms for them to choose in the indoor portion of the enclosure. All three are part of the Little Rock Zoo's lion breeding program, a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for African lions.

  • African lions are the most social of all big cats and live together in groups or “prides.” The average pride consists of five or six females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or two males (known as a coalition if more than one) who mate with the adult females.
  • Lions live for about 10-14 years in the wild. While in captivity they live for as long as 20-25 years old.
  • The average male lion weighs around 400 lb. while the average female lion weighs around 290 lb.
  • Lions can reach speeds of up to 50mph but only in short bursts because of a lack of stamina.
  • An adult male’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away.

Because lions need huge areas to hunt in, habitat loss and loss of natural prey forces them closer to human habitation, where they sometimes attack livestock. Lions are being killed as pests and as trophies on big game hunts. Their population has dropped significantly in the past several years, and in many African countries they are restricted to national parks and other protected areas.

CRITICALLY ENDANGERED

Malayan Tiger

The Little Rock Zoo is home to Liku, a male born in December 2003 and one of his cubs, Asmara born November 12, 2013.  The Zoo is hopeful that Asmara will receive a breeding recommendation soon. Liku will then be transferred to another zoo so that Little Rock Zoo can acquire a mate for Asmara at the recommendation of the AZA Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP).  The exhibit is newly renovated and includes a pool for each tiger. Liku and Asmara are part of the Little Rock Zoo's Malayan tiger breeding program, a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan for Malayan tigers.

  • The Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni) is one of the rarest cats. 
  • Malayan tigers are some of the most endangered big cats in the world, with less than 500 left in the wild.
  • Like a human fingerprint, no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes on their coats. Scientists can use these distinctions to identify tigers in the wild.
  • Tigers are adept swimmers. They often go into the water to escape flies or cool off, and can easily cross rivers and lakes 5 miles wide.

The Little Rock Zoo is a member of the Malayan tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) and part of the Tiger Conservation Campaign coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.   We need your help! You can make a difference for wild tigers. Please join our efforts to secure a future for this amazing endangered species by donating to our conservation fund.

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