It was a rainy morning in San Diego today (April 28, 2016), but at the San Diego Zoo, the forecast called for snow. One-year-old jaguar cub Valerio and his mom, Nindiri, woke up to an unexpected surprise: piles of fresh, glistening snow blanketing their habitat. The duo appeared cautious when they entered the exhibit, stepping gingerly on the snow, unsure how to react to the novel substance. However, after a few minutes, the pair started exploring, climbing, searching for buried meatballs and showcasing their natural behaviors while enjoying their chilly enrichment surprise. Animal care staff said the cats’ personalities really shined through, and it was fascinating seeing them venture to parts of their habitat they normally wouldn’t explore this early in the day.
The 8-tons of fresh powder was provided through a generous donation to the Zoo’s animal care wish list as an enrichment item for the jaguars. The San Diego Zoo provides enrichment for the animals in its care to encourage their natural behaviors, providing them opportunity to thrive.
Today’s snow day marks the first time this mom and cub have ever encountered snow. Jaguars, whose name means “animal that kills in a single bound,” are native to warmer climates of North and South America. They are the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere, and the third largest of the world’s cats. Unfortunately, demand for the jaguar’s beautiful rosette-pattern fur is one of the reasons this species is listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In addition, Jaguars are losing precious habitat, and human-jaguar conflicts are causing their numbers to decrease rapidly. There are only an estimated 10,000 jaguars left in the wild. San Diego Zoo Global partners with the Wildlands Network and Latin American conservationists to study, monitor and protect jaguars. Through those efforts, combined with educational outreach to local communities, the San Diego Zoo hopes to decrease human-jaguar conflicts.