Audubon Zoo veterinarians euthanize ailing geriatric jaguar

Photo by by Maria Davis courtesy of the Audubon Nature Institute

NEW ORLEANS – Audubon Zoo officials had to euthanize a 21-year-old female jaguar that had been facing worsening health issues.

The jaguar, named Ix Chel, was suffering from renal deficiency, a common ailment among geriatric cats, according to the zoo.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, the difficult decision was made by animal care staff and veterinarians to humanely euthanize her following an exploratory exam in the animal hospital,” zoo officials wrote in a press release. “Jaguars in the wild are estimated to live between 12 and 15 years.”

Ix Chel has been a favorite of visitors for years, despite her age and failing health, according to the zoo.

“Many of the animals in our care are geriatric,” Senior Veterinarian Dr Bob MacLean said. “We’ve made marked improvements in medical care in the zoological profession over the last couple of decades. We do have to pay close attention to them to make sure their quality of life is good and that we are taking appropriate care of them.”

Ix Chel came to New Orleans in 1998 and contributed to the Jaguar Species Survival Plan by giving birth to five cubs at Audubon Zoo.

“When you think of an ambassador for their species, Ix Chel is top notch, ” Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle Curator Liz Wilson said. “She has contributed significantly to the conservation of jaguars. Ix Chel was a spectacular mom, she ran a very tight ship and was always very diligent in the care of her babies.”

The jaguar exhibit has been closed since July when Valero, the zoo’s other jaguar, escaped the enclosure by biting a hole in woven steel and killed five alpacas, an emu, and three foxes.