Sacramento Zoo to welcome new jaguar

Fans of Mulac, the Sacramento Zoo’s resident male jaguar since 2002, will have an opportunity to bid him bon voyage this weekend and welcome his successor, Tikal.

Zoo officials announced that Mulac is moving to the Brevard Zoo in Florida to meet a potential new mate. Saturday will be his last day on exhibit in Sacramento.

Zookeepers will then introduce Tikal, a young male jaguar from the San Diego Zoo, to his new companion, Tina, the zoo’s resident female jaguar.

Although visitors may see Tikal on exhibit beginning Sunday, he and Tina will not appear together until the two have undergone an extensive “meet and greet” process, according to a Sacramento Zoo news release. Zookeepers will first work to acclimate the two jaguars to each other’s smell and expose them to visuals of one another. Once Tina and Tikal have become comfortable with the sight and smell of each other, they will begin sharing the same space, under the watchful eyes of zookeepers, officials said.

The Sacramento Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Jaguar Species Survival Plan, which recommended Tikal’s transfer to Sacramento. Although he may someday be a father, his role for now is to be a companion for Tina, an older jaguar. At age 16, Tina is considered post-reproductive and will act as a mentor to Tikal rather than a mate, as the young jaguar continues to grow into adulthood, according to zoo officials.

Jaguars are an endangered species. Estimates indicate that more than 10,000 still exist in the wild, but their numbers are rapidly decreasing as a result of habitat destruction and illegal fur trade.

Jaguars often are confused with leopards, zoo officials said, noting the both cats have similar brownish-yellow base fur coloring and are distinctively marked with spots. The jaguar’s spots are rosettes, which are spots within spots. They also are stockier than leopards, and have larger heads and shorter tails. Jaguars, which weigh 80 to 130 pounds, can live about 11 years in the wild and up to 22 years in captivity.