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Happy Jaguars at the Zoo

The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program, PJRP, is the only one of its kind anywhere.  Basically, jaguars who have turned from hunting their usual prey, such as deer, peccary, and armadillo…choosing instead to go after cattle, sheep, dogs and other “should not prey upon” animals, were being shot or poisoned.  In 2003, The Belize Zoo introduced a new plan for these doomed cats.

Instead of destroying them, they could be used for research and education.  Also, two ex-cattle killers were sent to prominent zoological facilities in the United States.  There was a great need for new genetic input in the USA captive populations.  Both jaguars have sired cubs.  One, “Pat the Cat” became a  star!  He has a book written about him, and this fun story is printed in both English and Spanish and is used throughout Belize as a reading resource in schools.


Unfortunately, it  is not possible to introduce these cats back into the wild…Misbehaving jaguars, as research has shown,  readily go back to their old ways.  They would most likely end up being destroyed.    These cars are often missing teeth and claws, even eyes.  This makes it difficult or impossible to hunt effectively.

In addition, the continued alteration of the habitat which jaguars require for sustenance, adds to their dilemma.

At the Rehab center, they become “people friendly”.   They are visited daily and treated with kindness. Research has been undertaken with our saved jaguars by the University of Belize, Panthera,  and Virginia Tech University .  Mexican and Guatemalan colleagues have visited the program.   And these jaguars play a major role in the important vet clinics which are held here annually.  Three of our jaguars frequently viewed by our visiting public, are here at the zoo as a result of the PJRH program’s initiation and subsequent success.  And there is “Rocky”.  He will amble out on the jaguar walk and allow his guests a superb close-up encounter.  Breathtaking!

And what fun these rescued jaguars  have!  Zookeepers regularly provide the feline “ex-cons” with play toys special made for ultra strong jaguar teeth.  They have pools to swim in,  and trees to scratch.  On a hot day, a “blood popsicle” is tossed their way.  And when we can, very large bones (from very large cows) are given as treats.

To date, eighteen jaguars have been saved because of this important conservation program.   The Belize Zoo is proud to take the lead in providing the PJRP as an option for jaguars who were facing a bleak future in our country.   This certainly is a grandiose PAWS UP!!

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