Jaguar cubs spotted for first time at Fort Worth Zoo

These cubs made their debut at the Fort Worth Zoo on July 9. Photo courtesy of Fort Worth Zoo.

Two female jaguar cubs born at the Fort Worth Zoo on May 11 made their public debut July 9 in the zoo’s Texas Wild! exhibit.

The sisters, the seventh and eighth jaguar births since the opening of Texas Wild! in 2001, have been named Luna and Estrella, the Spanish words for “moon” and “star,” respectively.

The cubs weighed less than two pounds each at birth and were born with their eyes closed. Over the last few weeks, the babies have been spending time with mom Xochi (“zo-she”) in an off-exhibit area to nurse, bond and develop necessary skills such as walking and climbing.

The cubs’ parents, Xochi and Pepito, are also parents to Sasha, born at the Zoo in 2013, making Sasha, Luna and Estrella full sisters. This is Xochi’s second litter of cubs and first set of multiples.

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The new jaguar births mark a conservation achievement at the zoo. The Fort Worth Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Jaguar (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP), a breeding program that maintains a healthy, self-sustaining population of vulnerable animals to help prevent their extinction.

As Luna and Estrella continue to grow, their fur will fully develop into adult coloration, designed to provide camouflage in forest surroundings. At about 6 months old, they will stop nursing and live on a carnivorous diet. The cubs’ eye color will slowly transition from bright blue to a permanent green and the cubs will likely weigh between 100 and 250 pounds and measure six feet in length (excluding the tail) by adulthood.

In the wild, a jaguar cub is dependent on its mother for protection from predators, for food and guidance until it is about 2 years old. Luna and Estrella will stay at the Fort Worth Zoo for the next 12 to 18 months and then be moved to another AZA zoo to help maintain genetic diversity within the species.

Older sister Sasha now resides at the San Diego Zoo based on a recommendation from the SSP.

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The Fort Worth Zoo added two reticulated giraffes, both males, to its herd with births on April 28 and May 23.

The baby giraffes, named Willie and Waylon after Texas music icons Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, are on exhibit with the rest of the zoo’s giraffe herd in the African Savannah.