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New jaguar cubs already 'ornery'

March 01, 2002|BY SCOTT BUTKI

THURMONT, Md. - Two jaguar cubs born at the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo earlier this month can already walk, although with a "wobble," and are developing personalities, zoo employees said Thursday.

The first cub, born Feb. 10, was a spotted female. The second cub, born Feb. 12, was a black male.

It is unusual for jaguar cubs to be born more than 24 hours apart, Zoo Communications Director Whitney Hahn said.

"We were not expecting the second one," she said.

The male weighs about five pounds, the female about 4 1/2 pounds, Bette Jorden, mammal curator and primary caretaker for big cats, said.

Jaguars are endangered in their tropical South American habitats and are rare even in American zoos, Hahn said. Unlike lions and tigers, jaguars are difficult to breed in captivity, she said.

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The cubs will not be named until their personalities develop more fully, which takes four to six weeks, Hahn said.

However, they are already starting to develop personalities, with the male often being sleepy and the female being grumpy, Jorden said.

"They are ornery - ornery like their parents," Jorden said. By the second day they were already spitting and hissing, Jorden said.

It is the first time in almost 30 years that jaguars have been born at the zoo.

The cubs' mother, Evita, is spotted while their father, Diego, is a rare black color variation, Hahn said. Evita carries the recessive black gene because one of her parents is black, she said.

Since 2000, Diego has been on loan to the zoo from the World Wildlife Zoo in Arizona for breeding purposes, she said.

It was the first litter for both parents so zoo employees did not know how the parents would act after the cubs were born or if Diego would be aggressive with the mother or the cubs, she said.

Diego can see and smell the cubs but not touch them, she said.

Evita is nursing, cleaning and rubbing the cubs, she said.

"That is exactly what she is supposed to be doing," she said.

The earliest the public will be able to see the cubs is around Easter, she said.

Evita was born in 1995 in a Florida zoo. Diego was born in 1996 in an Arizona zoo.

Lion cubs were born at the zoo last year, she said. But lion cubs are not as rare as zoo cubs, she said.

The zoo opens to the public Saturday.

For information, call the zoo at 301-271-3180 or go to the Web site at www.cwpzoo.com.

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