Zoo welcomes rare jaguar in effort to protect ‘remarkable’ species

A rare jaguar named Inka has arrived at Chester Zoo (Chester Zoo/PA)
A rare jaguar named Inka has arrived at Chester Zoo (Chester Zoo/PA)

Chester Zoo has welcomed a two-year-old rare jaguar named Inka as part of a special programme to protect the “remarkable” species.

The female jaguar has moved from The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent after she was selected as a fitting companion for Chester Zoo’s resident male jaguar, Napo.

Experts at the zoo believe Inka’s arrival will help to shine a spotlight on a European-wide programme that is working to ensure a healthy population of jaguars in the continent’s major conservation zoos.

Dave Hall, team manager of carnivores at Chester Zoo, said: “Inka is a strikingly beautiful, bold and confident young jaguar and she’s quickly taken to her new surroundings.

“We hope the two of them will go to form a strong and meaningful bond, and the early signs are positive.”

Mr Hall said jaguars are “remarkable animals and the two of them together will help us to raise more much-needed awareness of the survival challenges that they face in the wild”.

Conservationists say the jaguar is facing an uncertain future as several threats, including habitat loss, illegal hunting and conflict with humans, cause numbers in the wild to decline.

Paul Bamford, regional field programmes manager for the Americas at Chester Zoo, said: “Deforestation and habitat fragmentation are reducing jaguar populations across their range.”

He explained that a large proportion of deforestation in Latin America is driven by industrial agriculture, primarily for soy, oil palm and cattle production.

He added: “In our role as consumers, we are unwittingly contributing to the destruction of nature on our planet.

A rare jaguar named Inka has arrived at Chester Zoo (Chester Zoo/PA)

“At Chester Zoo we are working to influence policy, both in the UK and internationally, to address this.

“We are supporting efforts to improve production standards and legislation so that deforestation is minimised, or eliminated for good, and wildlife can live safely alongside productive areas.

“The goal is to create a deforestation-free economy, in which countries are able to meet their development needs sustainably.

“If we can break the link between habitat loss and production, then we have the opportunity [to] secure a future for people and wildlife.”

Jaguars are the largest big cat found in the Americas and have the most powerful bite of all the big cats.