Just two days after they were taken, two eight-week-old baby lynx from Delavan were returned unharmed, and the owners of the petting zoo were both relieved and upset.
“Two ladies called and one lady was very hysterical and said she knew where they were,” said Danette Vincenti, zoo director at Animal Gardens. “It makes me angry. Very angry. When it all comes out and it’s all said and done, we are prosecuting, definitely.”
The two unidentified women drove to Animal Gardens Wednesday night and gave the two baby big cats to a maintenance man with the petting zoo.
“Two girls came walking up and they each had one in their jacket,” said Michael Cummins with Animal Gardens. “They each handed me one of them. I was so excited. They were emotional but at that point, I just wanted the cats. Give me the lynx. I’m going to make sure they’re alright.”
The crew at Animal Gardens say the two lynx were hungry and thirsty, but otherwise unharmed. They will be seen by a veterinarian in the coming days.
However, they say it could have been much worse for the young big cats. At this age, the lynx kittens were just starting to eat raw meat and are growing at such a rapid pace, they needed the nutrients and water.
“Very dangerous,” Vincenti said. “They could have gotten dehydrated or sick from whatever they were feeding them. A lot of things could have happened. They could have died.”
“I don’t understand why someone would think they could take care of something like that. It is an exotic animal,” Cummins said. You need certain stuff, a certain diet and they had none of it. They must have realized, hey this was a horrible idea.”
Police arrived on the scene Wednesday night after the two women had left but Thursday, police arrested one man in connection with the theft.
“The animals are worth between $5,000 and $6,000 a piece,” said Chief Raymond Clark with the Delavan Police Department. “They’re small animals. If you don’t know how to take care of them, they’re Siberian lynx. It’s not like taking care of a house cat.”
Official charges haven’t been filed but Clark says the man will face a felony theft charge. He is likely going to be in court for arraignment Friday afternoon. No further information on the suspect was given but police say they continue to search for other suspects involved.
The crew at Animal Gardens was grateful for all of the support from the community in aiding the baby lynx’s safe return.
“Thank you everyone out there,” Vincenti said. “The media, Facebook, everyone who got behind me and the word went everywhere. So thankful to all you guys.”