A Handsome Newcomer

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Guapo explores his new home.

More exciting news coming out of Elephant Odyssey! On March 29, a male jaguar named Guapo, meaning handsome or good-looking, moved into our cat complex to become the fourth big cat to call the San Diego Zoo’s Elephant Odyssey home. Guapo is five years old and came to us from another zoo. He is joining us with the hopes that he will ultimately breed with our other resident jaguar, Nindiri.

Jaguars, like many of the species kept at the San Diego Zoo, are managed under a nationwide breeding program intended to maintain good genetic diversity as well as to create a safety net population in zoos. These powerful cats are currently listed as a near-threatened species with a declining population. Like many species around the world, jaguars are susceptible to habitat loss and degradation, loss of prey base, illegal hunting, and direct conflict with humans. Guapo represents a blood line that is not well represented in the United States and therefore is a genetically valuable individual. We are definitely going to be keeping our fingers crossed that some sparks will fly between these two beautiful cats, but the success of this potential breeding pair will ultimately lie with them.

Nindiri is lovingly referred to as a little firecracker. While very small for a jaguar, weighing in at only around 80 pounds (36 kilograms), Nindiri has a feisty little personality and can be rather intense. I like to say that she makes up for her small stature with attitude. Guapo seems to be a much different kind of cat with a much more laid-back approach to life. His gentle nature and lack of bravado are a stark contrast to his female counterpart. At approximately 130 pounds (59 kilograms), he has a size advantage over Nindiri, but all of us that are privileged to work with them are sure that she will call all the shots. Let us all hope that opposites really do attract!

For now, Guapo is acclimating to his new home and his new keepers. There are lots of new things for him to discover. Whether it be the features of his new enclosure, the rooftop penthouse where he spends time when not on exhibit, or just living across the hall from two huge lions (see post The Pride of Elephant Odyssey), you can guess that his transition will be an interesting one.

Guapo rotates exhibit time with Nindiri, so please come to Elephant Odyssey and welcome him to the San Diego Zoo family.

Jacob Shanks is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read his previous post, Jaguar Answers.