For hundreds of years, jaguars have held an important role in both nature and culture. They are an apex predator in their habitat and were once worshiped as gods in many ancient South American cultures. As National Geographic journalist, Chip Brown, wrote “They are at once regal and ferocious, unrivaled in stealth, at home in rivers, on jungle ground, and in trees, their eyes glittering in the dark with the tapetum lucidum cells of their night-vision retinas.”
The Sacramento Zoo is home to two jaguars: Tikal and Sasha. Today, July 15, we are celebrating Sasha’s ninth birthday!
Sasha’s care team describe her as “a very smart, stubborn, and cautious cat. Even when you can’t see her, she is definitely watching you.” It takes Sasha a while to warm up to new people, but once she’s comfortable with them, she can be quite the character.
Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest big cat in the world, after tigers and lions. Jaguars are powerful swimmers and climbers, making them very successful hunters. Jaguars will go after a wide range of different food, including fish, turtles, caiman, deer, peccaries, capybaras, and tapirs. Here at the zoo, Sasha’s favorite foods are fish and rabbit.
Over the past few months, Sasha has started participating in training sessions at the front of the jaguar exhibit. Our talented team of keepers and veterinary staff work with many of the animals at the zoo, including jaguars, utilizing positive reinforcement training to teach the animals how to respond willingly in their veterinary care. Sasha will now practice a variety of medical husbandry behaviors, including presenting her front paws, participating in voluntary injections, and an “open mouth” behavior that allows our veterinary team to monitor dental health.
The animals at the Sac Zoo receive a variety of unique enrichment opportunities designed to create novel experiences that encourage species-appropriate behaviors and stimulate the various senses. Sasha’s favorite enrichment items are cardboard boxes. She’ll quickly shred the boxes, turning them into cardboard confetti.
Jaguars like Sasha are classified as near threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Jaguar populations face many threats, including habitat destruction and fragmentation and poaching.
But you can make a difference!
Revenue from ticket sales and memberships not only support the animals in the Sacramento Zoo, but also conservation organizations around the world, including Jaguar SAFE (Saving Animals from Extinction), a project dedicated to jaguar conservation.
Enjoy your next zoo trip, secure in the knowledge that you are helping wildlife conservation. Be sure to swing by the jaguar habitat to wish Sasha a very happy birthday.