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Favorite Jaguar Moments

I am privileged to work the exhibits in Cat Canyon. Each species has its own mind set; its own management challenges, its own beauty. Each individual, its own personality.

We have two jaguars. Orson, a magnificent black jaguar, and Nindiri, a small female with the more normal coat pattern of black spots on a golden coat. They are placed on exhibit, one at a time, during the day. Each seems to enjoy their time on exhibit and the admiration of guests and staff alike. When I think of them, several moments come to mind:

- I love Orson’s glossy, black coat. If you look closely when the sun shines on his coat you’ll see that he has black spots, it’s just that his are against a black background. He is a gorgeous combination of power and beauty. Awesome is an over-used word these days, but it truly describes Orson.

- Orson’s eyes have a green hue.

- During the warmer months, Orson was often draped over the forked branch at the front of his exhibit when I walked by at the morning’s check. This is a very jaguar thing to do.

- Nindiri drapes herself across the forked branches, but not well. One would think her smaller size would make it easier for her. However, she seems uncertain where to put her belly and can be seen frequently adjusting her balance. This is a recent behavior for her. She doesn’t stay there long, possibly because it’s not a comfy position for her. Perhaps she’ll get better with time?

- In the afternoon, with dappled sunlight filtering into the exhibit, Orson often rests on his back, right at the front of the exhibit, watching the guests from an upside-down vantage point.

- Seeing Nindiri resting on the bench on exhibit, her energy stilled for the time being. She looks content.

- Nindiri’s efforts to drag a large bowl out of the pond are always impressive. The bowl is almost as big as she is, but her determination overcomes obstacles as she moves it around the exhibit.

- I enjoy watching their tails. They look like they’ve got a separate brain in their tail tip. The tail tip is often moving, seemingly independent from whatever the cat is doing.

Stop by our jaguar exhibit and find your own favorite moments.

Karen Barnes is a senior keeper at the San Diego Zoo. Read her previous blog, A Jaguar’s Day.

Jaguars are the featured animal in the January issue of ZOONOOZ, our member magazine. For video and a photo slide show of Orson and Nindiri, visit our ZOONOOZ page.