Onca, who was also known as Manchas, Spanish for “spot,” was 20 years old and suffered from kidney failure and mobility issues, “basically old age,” said Flynn, who noted that the normal median life expectancy of a jaguar in North American zoos is 17 years.
In the wild, jaguars generally live from 12-15 years.
“It was a hard one,” said Flynn. “There were a lot of staff in tears, some who had been working with Onca for a long time.”
Onca was born at a zoo in Guanajuato, Mexico, and was brought to the BioPark in 2001. His death leaves one remaining jaguar at the zoo, 13-year-old Maya, who was not his mate and lived in a separate enclosure. Apparently, Onca “had a cantankerous disposition,” Flynn said, and didn’t get along with other jaguars.
Although occasionally seen in the most southern portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, jaguars are primarily found in Mexico, Central America and South America. An estimated 15,000 jaguars are living in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, lists jaguars as near threatened due to loss and fragmentation of habitat, hunting and poaching.
Jaguars are the largest cats in North America. An adult male jaguar can have a body length of about 6 feet and weigh up to 250 pounds, according to the World Wildlife Fund, or WWF, website. Jaguars are most frequently tan or orange with distinctive black spots, or “rosettes,” but some are so dark they can appear to be spotless. Unlike many other large cat species, jaguars do not avoid water and are strong swimmers, says the WWF.
The website for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says jaguars tend to be solitary animals, as well as mostly nocturnal, although they can be active during the day. They often rest and hunt from trees. Jaguars are also highly adaptable and can live in a variety of habitats, including dense forests, grasslands, deserts and wetlands, says the USFWS.