Jaguar: Meet Nindiri

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Meet Nindiri. Seventy-seven pounds of energy with golden eyes. She has spots on her toes; something I find especially endearing for some reason. Did I mention she’s a jaguar?

In July 2008, Nindiri came to the San Diego Zoo from the Brevard Zoo in Florida, where she was named in a contest. “Nindiri” is a peak off a larger volcano named Masaya, which is her mother’s name. The volcano is described as semi-active; Nindiri is anything but that!

Nindiri is small compared to our black jaguar, Orson. She weighs about half of what he does. At her quarantine exam, the vets said it looked like her bones were fully grown, so we don’t know if she’ll grow larger. She is a young cat, having been born in June of 2007.

Nindiri settled in quickly, following her arrival. For me, one of the fun parts of being a keeper is getting to know each animal’s personality and abilities. Nindiri’s spunk and intelligence and people-oriented style were soon apparent. She seems to love her training sessions because of the attention she receives as well as the food rewards. She’s smart and will keep us busy setting new behaviors to teach her: some for fun, such as “roll over,” a behavior she does spontaneously but will be put on cue; others have direct management applications, such as “open mouth” or “side up” to accept a vaccination without restraint.

Enrichment provides another opportunity to give this active and intelligent cat variety in her day. Nindiri enjoys destroying cardboard boxes. She bites and chews pieces off the box, dropping the pieces once she has pulled them off. Another favorite activity is to drag a large bowl around. The bowl is made of a heavy plastic material; it is often placed in the pond in the main jaguar exhibit. Seeing her remove and drag the bowl away is an impressive display of the jaguar’s strength and agility. She is very food motivated, and a meatball hunt is another favorite.

Nindiri is destined to move to the jaguar exhibit when Elephant Odyssey is finished in 2009. For now, she has joined the other cats on the Cat Walk near Sun Bear Forest. While she spends most of her time in a separate area behind the main jaguar exhibit, she does rotate onto exhibit in the mornings. Stop by and see this charismatic cat.

Karen Barnes is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.