Zoo welcomes new jaguar to Cat Canyon

Garden City Telegram
Luna, a four-year-old jaguar, now calls Lee Richardson Zoo home.  Luna’s coat is yellow with black rosettes rather than black with black rosettes.

Luna, a four-year-old jaguar who now calls Lee Richardson Zoo home, has people seeing spots.  It is not that visitors to Cat Canyon haven’t seen jaguar spots before, but past jaguars at the zoo have been melanistic, making the spots harder to see.  Luna’s coat is yellow with black rosettes rather than black with black rosettes. 

Luna came to Garden City from Elmwood Park Zoo in Pennsylvania in coordination with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for jaguars.   On her first day in the outdoor habitat on March 25, she did not hesitate to explore the habitat and take an interested peek at her neighbors, the cougars.

“Luna is high-energy.  She’s very curious and playful,” Lead Keeper Carrie Leatherman said.

Jaguars are listed as near-threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  It is the largest cat species in the Americas.  They are an apex predator and used to live in every American country except Canada.  The current geographic range for jaguars is somewhere between one-third and half its historical size.  They currently face the challenges of population fragmentation, deforestation, and deliberate elimination.

Of course, these aren’t the only spots you can see at the zoo.  The leopards in the zoo’s “Wild Asia” area also have spots.  The difference is the spots in the middle of the jaguar’s rosettes compared to the leopard’s plain rosettes which have no spot in the middle.  Jaguars are also stockier than leopards.