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Jaguar cubs’ personalities far outweigh their 10-pound frames

Caileigh Robertson, Communications

Our three jaguar cubs received their first hands-on exams last week and, at 3 months old, keepers determined the cubs’ personalities far outweigh their 10-pound frames.

The trio—born in March to our jaguar pair, 7-year-old Nayla and 14-year-old father Junior—has been under the watchful eye of jaguar mother Nayla since their birth. Jaguar births are rare, and as a “near threatened” species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the jaguar triplets are a major milestone for Woodland Park Zoo’s jaguar conservation efforts.

Triple trouble in the cub den. Photo by Jamie Delk/Woodland Park Zoo
Health updates were put on hold while first-time mother Nayla demonstrated natural motherly care and protection, so much that keepers couldn’t get hands on the cubs until late last week. Staff learned the healthy triplets include two girls and one boy, all exhibiting curiously different personalities.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
Jaguar keeper Jamie Delk weighed in on their notable differences, telling us the first born is a girl, and she happens to be the smallest of the cubs. Despite her small stature, she’s the most independent and tends to be the leader of the three. In fact, she was the first to join Nayla to meet the keepers.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
The male cub—born second—was the largest at the time of birth. Although he is easily distinguished by his vocal outbursts, the youngster is startled easily and is shy around keepers. He’s quite the mama’s boy and is very attached to Nayla. The third born cub is the second female of the litter. She loves to play, but always wants to be near one of her siblings. She regularly follows her older sister and playfully roughhouses with her big brother. 

Keepers say they’re a tiresome group of cubs, and Nayla would especially agree. One of their favorite toys right now? Nayla’s tail! And with steady growth and development, the keepers are beginning to introduce the cubs to new toys and enrichment items such as boxes, paper towel rolls, and small balls. The triplets really enjoy toys that roll, giving them a chance to playfully swat at them. Nayla and the cubs also have access to an outside yard, in addition to their indoor rooms.

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
The cubs like to run and jump back and forth between their indoor room and outside yard to burn off a little energy. These playful bouts show keepers the cubs’ agility and coordination is strengthening more and more each day.

But with bigger adventures and play filling their days come bigger appetites, too. They continue to nurse from mom and receive eight pounds of meat daily, which is twice the amount of meat Nayla eats on her own!

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo
As the young jaguars continue to grow, our staff is working hard to cub-proof their exhibit for their big debut. Our keepers are hoping to see a few additional signs of coordination and growth before introducing them to their exhibit, but we’re confident visitors will meet the trio this summer.

Keep in mind, habitat loss and fragmentation of wild areas, hunting by ranchers, and loss of wild prey due to overhunting by humans are major threats facing jaguars in the wild. Each year, Woodland Park Zoo’s Jaguar Conservation Fund supports field conservation projects dedicated to preserving wild jaguars and their habitat. The fund has given awards to 19 projects in 12 North, Central and South American countries for a total investment of $113,806. Currently, the zoo supports three projects in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua that all aim to find ways for both people and predators to share Earth’s ecosystems. Learn more about our conservation efforts at


They're just beautiful. I hope to see them this summer. Thanks for the pix!
Anonymous said…
I remember when mine was that little!
Eight pounds each, or eight pounds for all three? Unclear sentence. Oh, yeah - and cuuuuuuuuute!
Anonymous said…
I’m pretty sure they each weigh about 10 lbs since they are 3 months old.
Anonymous said…
Surely it's eight pounds for the three of them total since they each weigh only ten. I can't imagine a ten pound cat eating eight pounds of food!
Krissy said…
In the first pic, is it Boy, Girl #1, Girl #2?
The keepers tell us it's the boy in the middle, Krissy.
Anonymous said…
Wonderful photographs and information, thanks for the update. Linda M.