London Zoo rescues a roaming European lynx from a Golders Green garden
Tuesday 8 May 2001
On Friday, 4 May 2001, London Zoo received a call from the Barnet Borough Police based at Colindale Police Station, north London, requesting assistance with a big cat sighting in the Golders Green area.
A member of the public had seen an animal sitting on the wall of her back garden, which she initially though was a leopard, as it had a spotted coat.
London Zoo’s Head Keeper of Big Cats, Ray Charter and a colleague, Terry March, were driven with a police escort to a residential area in Golders Green, where the cat had allegedly been seen in the large garden.
"We get numerous calls at London Zoo reporting big cat sightings and so far all of them have proved incorrect – it usually turns out to be a large domestic cat," commented Ray Charter. "So you can imagine my surprise when I bent down to look under the hedge expecting to see a large ginger Tom, only to be met by a much more exotic face!"
After several attempts to catch the cat with a hand-net in the large open area, it was finally contained in a smaller area under some steps of a nearby flat.
Having assessed the situation, Ray decided to call London Zoo’s Senior Veterinary Officer, Tony Sainsbury, who sedated the animal with a blowpipe. Once sedated, the animal was given a veterinary examination and was found to be a female European lynx approximately 18 months old.
"The lynx was underweight, but in a fair condition" says Tony Sainsbury. "She is currently recovering in our hospital and we will do a full veterinary examination in the next couple of days. She seems to have a problem with her left hind leg which we will examine under anaesthetic."
The origin of the animal is still unknown.
"It is difficult to speculate where the animal came from." said Nick Lindsay, Senior Curator for London Zoo and Whipsnade Wild Animal Park. "In order to own an exotic cat species you are required to have a Dangerous Wild Animal License from your local authority."
There was some concern from local residents regarding the danger that was posed by this animal.
"If left alone it is unlikely that the animal would have harmed a person" continues Nick Lindsay. "However, if it felt threatened or cornered it could give a nasty scratch or bite. It was more likely to be frightened than dangerous."
DI Paul Anstee from the Barnet Borough Police says "The police are extremely grateful that they had the back-up of London Zoo’s expertise in dealing with this unusual event."
The animal will remain in the care of London Zoo while she recuperates and her future is decided.
- For more information*:
The Zoological Society of London’s PR Office
Debbie Curtis: 020 7449 6363
Peter Beatty: 020 7499 6361
Joe Laing: 020 7449 6236
Notes for editors:
- The European lynx is also known as the Northern or Eurasian lynx. It is typically found in northern forests across Europe and Asia
- Head and body length: 80–130cm (tail length: 10–25cm)
Shoulder height: 60–75cm
- It has a stocky body with long powerful legs, a short black-tipped tail and prominent tufted ears
- The dense fur varies in coloration but the upper part of the coat is normally a yellowish brown with darker spots and the lower part is lighter in colour
- The paws are often large with thick hair to aid travel in snowy areas
- It also has a neck-ruff with black and white markings which fans open as an aggressive visual signal
- The harsh environments these animals typically habitat mean they have a very broad diet, from small deer to rats, mice and lemmings, but normally they prey on rabbits and hares
- They give birth to between 1–4 young that begin to accompany their mother at about three months old. Mated pairs or a mother and young sometimes hunt together
- The Eurasian lynx has been intensively hunted and trapped for its valuable fur, and because it is considered a threat to game and livestock. It is a CITES listed species
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