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A quiet, warm welcome for Fitz the jaguar

Posted by Meghan Sawyer, Communications
Photos by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Howdy, Fitz!
Just because we're all practicing social distancing, doesn't mean we can't bring you up close with one of our newest residents. Woodland Park Zoo has welcomed Fitz to our zoo family and he's getting more confident in his new home every day. This 2-year-old male jaguar arrived recently from Houston Zoo, and he is slowly but surely finding his way around the Tropical Rain Forest.

Fitz is young and only a little bigger than Nayla, our female jag and his coat appears to be a little lighter in color.
Fitz spent his first month in Seattle under the watchful eye of our awesome veterinary staff, which is standard procedure for new animal arrivals. Once our animal care team gave him a clean bill of health, he was ready to move into his new home in the Tropical Rain Forest area. Once there, this slightly shy guy has been taking his time venturing onto the public side of his outdoor space and is now enjoying some private time to settle in and bond with his new animal keepers. The zoo’s temporary closure related to the novel coronavirus means there are less people around, so Fitz is making the most of this quieter time by exploring his new digs.

Up close, you can appreciate the beautiful pattern on Fitz's coat. In nature, those rosettes offer good camouflage for these predators as they move through trees or other vegetation.
“Fitz is very gentle and attentive,” says animal care manager Erin Sullivan.  “From the start, he’s been good about coming up to us for training sessions, even as he was still learning the ropes of his new surroundings.”

Fitz joins our 13-year-old female jaguar, Nayla, in the Tropical Rain Forest—but they live separately and there are no plans to introduce them to each other for breeding. In nature, jaguars are solitary animals. Females and males may hang out during the breeding season but, except for that and mothers with cubs, they tend to practice their own version of social distancing. Nayla had a litter of cubs back in 2013 and, like most jaguars, seems quite content with her alone time. 

Woodland Park Zoo participates more than 110 Species Survival Plans (SSPs) including the one for jaguars. SSPs are conservation breeding programs that ensure genetic diversity and stability for endangered species in accredited North American conservation zoos.
When Fitz starts stalking or hunting, it really demonstrates the skill and strength that all jaguars possess, but his former keepers at Houston Zoo say he's really a softie.

Fun Fitz Facts

  • The fastest way to Fitz’s heart is food! His favorites are raw eggs, goat’s milk and bones, but he still excitedly scarfs down his normal daily diet.
  • Jaguars are the largest feline species in the Western hemisphere, but Fitz is relatively small for a male, weighing in at 125 pounds. He’s 2 years old, so he has plenty of time to fill out a bit.
  • Fitz’s birthday is July 20, so he’ll turn 3 this summer!
While the zoo is temporarily closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, we'll keep you updated on how Fitz is settling into his home in the Tropical Rain Forest.

Fitz is a young and nimble cat. He'll turn 3 years old this summer.

You Can Help Protect Jaguars

Jaguars are 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 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.

You'll be able to see Fitz once the zoo reopens, but for now he is making the most of this quiet period by taking time to explore his new digs.
Since 2003, Woodland Park Zoo has invested more than $125,000 in jaguar conservation projects dedicated to preserving wild jaguars and their habitat. Currently the zoo supports the Northern Jaguar Project, a binational non-profit dedicated to protecting the northernmost jaguars in Mexico and the southwestern US. When you join the zoo by becoming a member, visiting or making a donation, you are directly supporting this conservation work.

Adopt a ZooParent Jaguar

ZooParent adoptions are the perfect gift for budding conservationists. Your ZooParent adoption helps us provide exceptional care for all of Woodland Park Zoo's amazing animals. Plus, your support contributes to our conservation efforts at the zoo and around the world.

A Fitz-worthy cause

While we are closed to the public during these unprecedented times, our exceptional Animal Care team and other staff have carried on work to provide dedicated care to more than 900 animals. As a non-profit, we are relying on our community now more than ever to help these wonderful animals continue to thrive. Contributions, both big and small, will help creatures of all sizes.

Please visit www.zoo.org/donate to help support Fitz and the all of the animals at Woodland Park Zoo.

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