Zoo guidelines for keeping large felids in captivity


Shoemaker, A.H., Maruska, E.J. and R. Rockwell (1997) Minimum Husbandry Guidelines for Mammals: Large Felids American Association of Zoos and Aquariums


Within the family Felidae, determination of minimum husbandry needs of large cats is variable because of differences in size, morphology, and behavior. For purposes of this discussion, a large felid is identified as any species of cat belonging to the genus Panthera, including: lion, P. leo; tiger, P. tigris; jaguar, P. onca; leopard, P. pardus; and snow leopard, Uncia uncia; as well as the puma (cougar or mountain lion), Puma concolor; clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa; and cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus.

With one exception, large felids are solitary carnivores functioning at or near the top of their trophic level. While this behavior permits them to be housed singly, it also requires that the introduction of potential mates be done carefully to prevent fighting, injury, or death. Their aggressive nature and physical capabilities demand that owners exercise the utmost care when designing cages or exhibits for any species, regardless of size, to insure that specimens cannot escape or reach into adjacent cages or public areas. Caution also should be exercised when handling otherwise “tame” individuals.

Minimum requirements for exhibit size and furnishings, diet, veterinary needs, and social groupings are broken down in the following way: 1) very large pantherids, 2) other large felids, and 3) cheetahs.

Zoo Guidelines for Keeping Large Felids in Captivity.pdf     22 KB

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