As many of you big cat fans may already know, our jaguars were again rotated at the San Diego Zoo (see previous post, Jaguar Rotation). After a stay of over three months, Orson returned to his traditional home on Big Cat Trail while Nindiri traveled back to the cat exhibit in Elephant Odyssey.
Upon Orson’s return, he spent quite a while investigating all the smells Nindiri had left in the exhibit; this is exactly what a wild jaguar spends a large portion of its time doing. Males travel their territory monitoring the status of any nearby cats, with special attention to females that may be receptive to breeding. On top of getting the opportunity to check out Nindiri’s smell, Orson spent time in some areas of the exhibit he rarely used, as the two of them utilize the same space differently.
Shortly after Nindiri’s release, she was already playing in her pool, which was stocked full of fish that Orson hadn’t bothered to fish out. Unlike your typical house cat, most jaguars enjoy time in the water. Jaguars are excellent swimmers, and wild jaguars even hunt prey, such as caiman, in the water.
The timing seemed right for the move in regard to the change of seasons, too. On its exposed location on the mesa top, the Elephant Odyssey cat exhibit stays several degrees warmer than that of the Big Cat Trail exhibit, which is much more shaded on the side of the canyon. For the summer months, the water-loving Nindiri can take a refreshing dip in the expansive pool while Orson, who usually prefers to stay dry, will stay cool in his shady home.
Keep an eye out for our next shift as we utilize both exhibits to maximize the quality of life of both of our marvelous cats.
Todd Speis is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo.