The two Jaguar cubs born at ARTIS Zoo on June 28 recently explored their outdoor exhibit. Zoo visitors can now see the male and female on a regular basis, putting to practice their natural stalking abilities and big-cat skills.
The cubs are unique in their appearance. Both cubs have what is known as “color morphism” and are black in color (their father is also black). Color morphism is known to occur in the Jaguar species. Jaguars with melanism appear almost entirely black, although their spots are still visible on closer examination.
Melanistic Jaguars (or “black” jaguars) occur primarily in South America, and are virtually unknown in wild populations residing regions of North America. They are informally known as “Black Panthers”, but they do not form a separate species.
Extremely rare albino individuals, sometimes called “White Panthers”, also occur among Jaguars.
The Jaguar (Panthera onca) is a big cat and is the only extant Panthera species native to the Americas. The Jaguar is the third-largest feline species after the Tiger and the Lion, and the largest in the Americas.
The Jaguar’s present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. The species has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.
This spotted cat most closely resembles the Leopard physically, although it is usually larger and of sturdier build and its behavioral and habitat characteristics are closer to those of the Tiger.
Dense rainforest is its preferred habitat, but it will range across a variety of forested and open terrains. Its preferred habitats are usually swamps and wooded regions, but Jaguars also live in scrublands and deserts. It is notable, along with the Tiger, as a feline that enjoys swimming.
The Jaguar is largely solitary, opportunistic, and a stalk-and-ambush predator at the top of the food chain. It is a keystone species, playing an important role in stabilizing ecosystems and regulating the populations of the animals it hunts. The Jaguar has an exceptionally powerful bite, even relative to the other big cats. This allows it to pierce the shells of armored reptiles and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of prey between the ears to deliver a fatal bite to the brain.
The Jaguar is classified as “Near Threatened” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and its numbers are declining. Threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat. While international trade in Jaguars or their parts is prohibited, the cat is still frequently killed by humans, particularly in conflicts with ranchers and farmers in South America.
ARTIS is part of the European Breeding Program for Jaguars. As a result, the black male and spotted female met at the end of last year, and several coverings were observed. Once pregnant, the two Jaguars were separated again. A female has a gestation period of about three to four months. The female raised the cubs on her own, and after one-and-a-half to two years, the young cubs become independent of their mother’s care.
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