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 Marsh, 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 of approximately 18 months.
"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 contact:
The Zoological Society of London's PR Office
Notes on the Lynx
The European lynx is also known as the Northern or Eurasian lynx. It is typically found in northern forest & Steppe across Europe and Asia.
Head and body length: 80 - 130 cm (Tail length: 10 - 25 cm)
Shoulder Height: 60 - 75 cm
Weight: 20 - 38 kg
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 is 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.
á 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 3 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 and re-introductions have recently taken place in parts of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia.
4 th May, 2001
Barnet, October 3rd: Four months after being captured in a suburban back garden, the Beast of Barnet is alive and well at London Zoo.
A wild cat dubbed the Beast of Barnet, found in a Childs Hill garden back in May, has recovered well according to London Zoo.
The Beast of Barnet: Lara is now enjoying life in London Zoo's big cat enclosure
The young female European lynx caused disarray among armed police officers, London Zoo officials, a vet and an RSPCA team who all decended on a family's garden in Hocroft Avenue on May 4 following a sighting.
Four hours later, zoo officials tried to capture the lynx but it jumped over a garden fence with the police in hot pursuit. The beast was cornered again under a stairway leading to Avenue Court flats in neighbouring Farm Road where a vet subdued her with a tranquilliser gun.
Times Group readers may recall how Potters Bar and South Mimms residents were forced to lock themselves in their own homes in September 1998 as police combed the area looking for a large catlike animal which had been sighted there earlier. There were also sightings of another 'Beast of Barnet' in the Brookmans Park area.
However, the captive lynx seems to be enjoying her new home the big cat enclosure at London Zoo having recovered fully from her ordeal.
Head keeper of London Zoo's big cat section Ray Charter said: "We've called her Lara and she's the only lynx in the big cat enclosure here so we will not be breeding her. She's in good condition now.
"When she came here she had a broken paw and that's better now. She was also quite thin but she's gained more weight and has settled in well.
"We are now considering whether she'll be staying with us for the future or moving to another zoo so she can live with members of her own cat family."
RSPCA inspector Dermot Murphy added: "We haven't been able to find out who owned the lynx but believe it was privately owned. Unfortunately, there's been an increase in people owning exotic animals and we would warn anyone hoping to do this to think carefully as they are not ideal pets in the home."
The inspector said it is an offence to hold an animal of this kind without a licence under the Government-enforced Dangerous Wild Animal's Act.
Anyone with information on the owner of this beast can call the RSPCA on 08705 555 999.
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