Human Interest

Mexican wildlife park provides sanctuary for jaguars

By Ines Amarelo

Mexico City, Dec 11 (EFE).- Six jaguars seized from people who kept the largest felines in the Western Hemisphere as pets are settling into their new home at the Reino Animal (Animal Kingdom) conservation park near Mexico City.

Beyond serving as a refuge for jaguars that cannot be returned to the wild, the Jaguar Sanctuary is part of an effort to educate people about the importance to the ecosystem of preserving a species designated since 2002 as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.

“All of the others depend on the jaguar, it’s a chain. The moment you remove the jaguar, the lesser prey begin to grow and often destroy the vegetation. There begins to be an imbalance,” Jose Luis Gonzalez, head of animal welfare at Reino Animal, told Efe.

Once the park decided to create the sanctuary, Italy’s Ferrero needed just six months to prepare a suitable expanse of 6,000 sq m (64,500 sq ft) for six jaguars.

Like the park’s other residents, which include giraffes, ostriches and llamas, the jaguars live in an environment designed to mimic their natural habitat.

“Everything we decide affects their (jaguars’) ecosystems to the degree that they are being left without spaces, so education is fundamental to know how to live sustainably, and living sustainably helps the jaguar,” park director Ithiel Berrum said.

Gonzalez said that the concept behind Reino Animal is in line with a broad transformation emphasizing the well-being of the creatures instead of regarding them merely as entertainment for humans.

The people who manage “zoos or areas of this type have to adapt to the changing necessities of species, to what they require from us,” he said.

A visit to the Jaguar Sanctuary begins with a video about the threats to the survival of the species, followed by the opportunity to watch – from behind glass – the big cats in their natural habitats.

The first jaguar to come into view moves with the grace and elegance characteristic of the species, but seems a little uncomfortable with the presence of humans.

And while the jaguars at Reino Animal don’t need to hunt for their food, the keepers hope that any cubs born in the sanctuary will retain enough of the hunting instinct that they can be freed to boost the numbers of jaguars in the wild. EFE ia/dr

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