ASUNCION – An abandoned jaguar cub in Paraguay has become the hope for captive reproduction of the big cats in the South American country.
Xena was found in the Chaco region after being abandoned by her parents and it is hoped she could help save jaguars, the biggest felines in the Americas and in danger of extinction.
Atinguy Wildlife Refuge plans to mate Xena as soon as she reaches procreation age with Chiqui.
Xena’s discovery has been seen as a miracle by staff at the center, who had thrown themselves into a difficult search for a female jaguar to mate with the nine-year-old male, who also born in the wild.
Atinguy refuge, around 18 kilometers from the southern city of Ayolas, is home to 84 mammals, 144 birds and 15 reptiles.
Anibal Jara, who works at the centre, told EFE on Friday: “It has been a Christmas gift. A gift from God.”
He said Xena arrived at the premises three days ago after a stay in an animal shelter in Chaco owned by Holger Bergen, who in turn owned the cattle ranch where the cub was discovered.
“Apparently she was abandoned by her parents during the fires that took place in Chaco,” Jara said, referring to a disaster that devastated more than 300,000 hectares of forests in the north of the region earlier this year.
The shelter had sent out messages asking for any information on the whereabouts of female jaguars to mate with Chiqui, who came to the center after two years in Argentina.
Chiqui had been transferred to the Experimental Center of Breeding of Jaguars in Corrientes to participate in a program trying to reintroduce the species in the Ibera Wetlands, where they have been extinct for almost 50 years.
He was paired with a female called Tania, who was born in captivity and gave birth to two cubs Arami and Mbarete last year.
It is hoped the process can be repeated at the Atinguy refuge, although Xena is estimated to be between six and eight months old, far below the age of reproduction which is between one and a half and two years.
The young female has already been installed in a part of the shelter where she can be seen by Chiqui.
Jara said jaguars are in a threatened situation in Paraguay due to the absence of protected areas where they can live in freedom.
He called for greater awareness among the population, especially in the livestock sector, which considers the presence of the predator a danger to cattle herds.
The number of jaguars in Paraguay is estimated to be around 300, although there is no exact record.
In Argentina, there are less than 200 individuals, mostly located in small areas of Salta and Jujuy forest and in the Misiones reserve.
Jaguars are solitary animals that have between two and three young and cover an area of around 25 kilometers per day.