Jaguar Cubs Explore With Mom at Houston Zoo

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The Houston Zoo’s four-month-old Jaguar cubs recently made their public debut.

Fitz and his sister, Emma, were born to first-time parents Maya and Tesoro on July 20. The cubs have been behind-the-scenes with mom the past few months.

During most mornings, the family can be seen exploring their outdoor habitat. According the zoo, the cubs and their mom also have access to their “night houses” or caves if they choose to have privacy.

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4_23456221_10156096682252526_6083372874291509906_oPhoto Credits: Houston Zoo

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.

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