Zoo adds to animal residents

By The Telegram staff
Kaya, a female, twelve-year-old jaguar, top, from the Salisbury Zoo in Maryland was introduced to four-year-old jaguar, Luna, in Cat Canyon on the morning of June 1 at Lee Richardson Zoo.

Lee Richardson Zoo has welcomed two new members to its animal family - a jaguar and a black-footed ferret.

Kaya, a female, 12-year-old jaguar from the Salisbury Zoo in Maryland was introduced to four-year-old jaguar, Luna, in Cat Canyon on the morning of June 1. While the two cats had previously been able to smell, see, and hear each other through a divider in their indoor quarters, this was the first time they shared the same space.

Animal Care staff looked on as Luna cautiously approached Kaya. Luna, the younger jaguar, is known for being inquisitive; her first interactions with Kaya were no different. Kaya allowed Luna to approach her, the pair met face to face, and sniffed one another thoroughly.  Other than a few tail twitches and a couple of “that’s enough” warning snarls from Kaya, the pair were introduced successfully without incident.

Jaguars are listed as near-threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Both cats came to the Lee Richardson Zoo as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan for jaguars. Jaguars are the largest cat species in the Americas. They are an apex predator and used to live in every American country except Canada. 

“Captain Barnacles”, a four-year-old male black-footed ferret in now at home in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education.

On May 13, the four-year-old male named “Captain Barnacles” was released into the ferret habitat in the Finnup Center for Conservation Education.

Considered one of the most endangered mammals in North America, Captain is on permanent loan to the zoo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and came from the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center near Fort Collins, CO. Listed as endangered in 1967, by 1972, black-footed ferrets were thought to be extinct in the wild. An accidental discovery of a colony in Wyoming in 1981 brought new hope for the species and led to a recovery program overseen by USFWS.

As predators, the black-footed ferret plays a vital role in prairie ecosystems. The Conservation Center is returning black-footed ferrets to 29 reintroduction sites located throughout Kansas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Canada, and Mexico. Through this conservation program, it is possible that Captain now has siblings living in the wild as his parents have been reintroduced to their native habitats.

Zoo guests can visit the black-footed ferret as well as other species native to Kansas at the Finnup Center weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The Center is closed over the noon hour.

The zoo is open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the drive-through closing at 6 p.m.