New Orleans Audubon Zoo welcomes a trafficked jaguar cub
There's a new jaguar at the New Orleans Audubon Zoo.
The 7-month-old female jaguar was rescued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which asked the Louisiana zoo to take her in, officials announced on Thursday.
The zoo received the jaguar on Oct. 14.
"This rescue effort was an amazing example of how zoos, government agencies, and conservationists work together for the greater good," the zoo's curator of primates, Liz Wilson, said in a statement.
Cubs typically live with their mothers, learning how to survive and hunt, until they are 2 years old. They live about 23 years.
"She is adjusting well to her new environment, and we cannot wait for our guests to meet her," Wilson said, noting that the zoo has the experience and equipment to house jaguars.
The spotted beauty will be living in the zoo's Jaguar Jungle, described as a "misty Mayan rainforest," alongside the zoo's only other jaguar — a male 6-year-old named Valerio who was moved there from the San Diego Zoo in 2017.
The exhibit also houses giant anteaters, spider monkeys, macaws and Brazilian ocelots among re-created ruins.
Wilson said the zoo has added new jumping and climbing platforms to the habitat "to increase the vertical usage of the space" for its newest resident.
Jaguars are the largest cats in the Americas (and third-largest in the world after tigers and lions) and once roamed from Argentina through Central America, Mexico and as far north as California, Arizona, New Mexico and even Louisiana in the U.S. But, since 1900, jaguars have disappeared from over 50% of their range, according to the Los Angeles Zoo.
The population has been decimated by poaching, human-wildlife conflict, federal population-control programs intended to protect livestock and habitat loss. At most, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates only about 15,000 creatures exist in the wild, the New Orleans zoo reports. They are considered "near threatened."
In 2018, experts from the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona found someone had killed and skinned Yo'oko, a young male jaguar that was one of only two jaguars known to be living in the U.S. Researchers identified the animal based on his pattern of rosettes, which are unique to each animal and allow specific individuals to be identified.
In New Orleans, zoo officials have yet to name the new jaguar, saying they will wait to learn more about her personality.
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