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Celebrating a long life: Goodbye to Junior, our amazing jaguar

Posted by Gigi Allianic, Communications

That's a face we will never forget. Rest easy, Junior, thank you for letting us love you and inspiring millions to save jaguar habitat. Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
Jaguar Cove won't be the same without the presence of our favorite male jaguar, Junior. The geriatric cat had been off view, living behind the scenes where keepers could keep a close watch on him (spoil him) since late in 2017. Junior was humanely euthanized on May 31 due to a major decline in health and quality of life. Junior was 20 years old. 

The life expectancy of jaguars in zoos is 18 years. The big cats live longer in zoos than in their natural range because of the evolving field of zoo medicine, including improved husbandry and management techniques, excellent animal care, better nutrition, increased medical knowledge, and diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. 

Sweet cat naps on his favorite hot rock made Junior a happy boy. Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo
Junior had been living off public view since sustaining a suspected stroke in late 2017. Under the zoo’s prescribed care plan for the geriatric cat, the animal care team closely monitored his condition and physical abilities, making accommodations for his limitations that enabled him to negotiate ramps and other den features, and to enable him to use all available spaces, including regular access to an outdoor area. We'd like to give his keepers and care team a huge thank you for making his last days as comfortable and calm as possible.

“We are very sad to say goodbye to this special animal. He was a great cat who brought our Jaguar Cove habitat alive with his stealth and masculinity. Zoo visitors were in awe of seeing this beautiful jaguar up close and learning about these big cats in their natural range,” says Erin Sullivan, animal care manager. “Our animal keepers did an amazing job of maintaining a good quality of life for Junior, despite his physical limitations over the last year and a half. He lived a long, enriched life and we’ll really miss him.”

See video of Junior swimming in his Jaguar Cove pool:

Junior arrived at Woodland Park Zoo in 2005 from Santa Cruz Zoo in Bolivia under the Jaguar Species Survival Plan, a cooperative, conservation breeding program across accredited zoos to help ensure a healthy, self-sustaining population of jaguars.

Junior tore into his Thanksgiving enrichment (mmm turkey!) Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.

Nayla, our 13-year-old female, continues to live at the Jaguar Cove. In 2013, she and Junior had three cubs, which now live at other zoos. “We could potentially acquire a new male jaguar this summer based on a recommendation of the Jaguar Species Survival Plan,” says Sullivan. Jaguars are primarily solitary creatures and prefer to live on their own. Females and males will hang out during the breeding season, but beyond that they prefer an independent lifestyle.

Two of three cubs born in 2013. The cubs were the first offspring between Nayla and Junior. Photo by Ryan Hawk/ Woodland Park Zoo.
Woodland Park Zoo participates in 111 Species Survival Plans, overseen by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Led by experts in husbandry, nutrition, veterinary care, behavior, and genetics, these plans also involve a variety of other collaborative conservation activities such as research, public education, reintroduction and field projects. 

We'll miss you, big guy! Photo by Dennis Dow/Woodland Park Zoo.
The jaguar is the third largest cat in the felid family after tigers and lions, and the largest feline in the Western Hemisphere. The cat is listed as “near threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Habitat loss and fragmentation of wild areas, retaliatory hunting by ranchers, loss of wild prey due to overhunting by humans, and killing for trophies and trafficking of body parts are major threats facing the jaguar. Jaguars have lost more than 20% of their historic range over the past 14 years, still existing in 21 countries from the United States, to Mexico and Latin America. 

Junior's cubs explore a snowy morning. Photo by Ryan Hawk/Woodland Park Zoo.
Since 2003, Woodland Park Zoo has invested more than $125,000 in 20 different jaguar conservation projects dedicated to preserving wild jaguars and their habitat. Supported projects covered 13 of the 21 remaining countries with jaguar populations.

To help Woodland Park Zoo contribute information to sustainable breeding, daily care and public awareness of jaguars, you can adopt a ZooParent in honor of Junior.

Nayla uses a cub as a pillow during a cat nap in Jaguar Cove. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren/Woodland Park Zoo.


zenseas said…
I have missed Junior since his stroke awhile back. RIP big guy. ❤️❤️❤️❤️