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Jaguar triplets about to turn one

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

The big “1” is just around the corner for the jaguar cubs.

The adventurous cubs explore the exhibit. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

That’s right, Kuwan, Arizona and Inka turn 1 year old next week on March 22. A lot has happened for these cubs in just one year, like:

Babies’ first day outside

Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Babies’ first swim

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Babies’ first snowman

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

They may still be little ones in our hearts, but the truth is, we’re not dealing with babies anymore. Looking to the natural history of the jaguar, by one year of age cubs are typically ready to leave their mom. They may stay with their siblings for a time as they mature, and then ultimately they move on to a solitary lifestyle.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

Providing the best care for growing animals means looking for clues to know when they are ready for natural next steps. Keepers have been observing the jaguars closely and we have seen in recent weeks that not only are the cubs fully independent of mom, but mom is clearly ready for some quality alone time!

Nayla is ready for some quality alone time. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

That means it’s time to readjust their living arrangements to give them the social independence they need. We have restructured their grouping so now mom rotates on exhibit independently, alternating with the young trio who rotate on exhibit together. Dad Junior is living in an outdoor exhibit behind the scenes for now while we make these transitions.

In the long-term, the cubs will mature into solitary adults and need to move on from each other as well.  The work has already begun to identify new zoo homes for each of the young jaguars. As a conservation zoo, we collaborate with other accredited zoos through an Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ (AZA) program called the Species Survival Plan that allows us to work together to save species at the population level while planning for the lives of each animal at the individual level. The conservation work continues in the field through our Jaguar Conservation Fund, which supports research and targets threats that put pressure on wild jaguar populations.

The male cub, Kuwan, will be the first to move out on his own, heading off to Zoo de Granby, Quebec this summer.  New homes will also be identified for the female cubs in the near future. With these cooperative transfers to other AZA-accredited zoos, each cub will have the chance to mature and participate in the Species Survival Plan breeding program, ensuring healthy generations of this threatened species into the future.

Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.

We've all treasured the chance to see the cubs playing together and bonding with mom for the first year of their lives. Now, we get to see them mature and become truly independent. But that won’t stop us from celebrating one final first—babies’ first birthday! Look for the jaguar cubs to enjoy a special birthday treat on Fri., Mar. 21 at 10:00 a.m. Join us then and stay tuned here for photos from their party!