Yesterday, Fort Worth Zoo in Texas announced the birth of the zoo’s newest resident: a female Jaguar cub. The healthy cub, named Sasha, was born July 16 and weighed 2 pounds (.9 kg). Sasha immediately began nursing and bonding with 4-year-old mother Xochi (zo-she). Xochi is a very protective mother; after giving birth, she cared for her cub in a private, off-exhibit area, mimicking natural Jaguar behavior in the wild. The 2-month-old cub now weighs 13.75 pounds (6.23 kg) and can be seen exploring her habitat in the Brush County area of the zoo's Texas Wild! exhibit.
Typically, Jaguars give birth to a litter of one to four cubs after a gestation period of 95 to 110 days. Cubs nurse for about six months and are usually introduced to meat at around three months old. Cubs are born with heavily spotted, dense, wooly fur, which transforms into adult coloration by seven months old. A Jaguar’s specially marked coats acts as camouflage, making it almost invisible in its desert or forest surroundings. Jaguars can grow to be six feet long (excluding tail) and weigh between 100 to 250 pounds (45 to 113 kg).
Photo credits: Fort Worth Zoo
See a video of the cub playing with mom:
The Fort Worth Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Jaguar Species Survival Plan (SSP), a breeding program that maintains a healthy, self-sustaining population of vulnerable animals to help prevent their extinction. Sasha is the eighth Jaguar born in an AZA zoo this year, and is the sixth Jaguar cub born since the Texas Wild! exhibit opened in 2001.
In the wild, a Jaguar cub is dependent on its mother for protection from predators, for food and guidance until it is about 2 years old. Sasha will stay at the Fort Worth Zoo for the next 12 to 18 months and then be moved to another AZA zoo to help maintain genetic diversity within the species.
“The Fort Worth Zoo has had a very successful history breeding Jaguars,” said Ron Surratt, Fort Worth Zoo director of animal collections. “Our participation in the Jaguar SSP has helped ensure guests will be able to enjoy Jaguars for years to come as we continue to contribute to the survival of the species.”
The Jaguar is the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere (third largest in the world behind Lions and Tigers) and represents the only 'big cat' found in the New World. A Near Threatened species, the Jaguar is historically native to the southern United States. Due to habitat alteration, the Jaguar can now be found from the U.S./Mexico border south into Central America.