Sunday 28 February 2021

Male jaguar kills female jaguar when put together at a Florida zoo. Why?

Harry and Zenta were two jaguars at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. Harry is still alive and he is twelve years old. He killed the female jaguar, Zenta, who was twenty-one years old. A mistake was made. They were both put into a holding complex. 

Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens poster featuring a jaguar. Is this Harry? Photo: Jacksonville
and Gardens.

Harry was put there for examination. The mistake was putting them together. Keepers tried to separate them unsuccessfully. As Harry attacked Zenta, they tried to immobilise him. I presume this means tranquilizing. They were unsuccessful and he killed the female who had arrived at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in 2006 they rescued animal from a private zoo. Harry was born at the zoo in 2009.

Comment: the question that I have is ,why did the male jaguar kill the female? In the wild male and female jaguar's meet to mate and reproduce. Roaring may function to bring them together for mating purposes. Females can end up being accompanied by several males. But I can't find any reports of male jaguar's killing female jaguars.

I will have to come to my own conclusion as the zookeepers at Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens don't tell us why Harry wanted to kill Zenta. There were probably two overlapping factors. Both were captive, living in confined spaces much smaller than the amount of space they naturally require in the wild which would be something in the order of up to 152 km² for a male jaguar. Females require less space but still vastly larger than is available at a zoo. This probably constantly stressed both the male and female. 

In the wild, female home ranges can be within the home ranges of male jaguars which sometimes overlap. I would suspect that stresses built up because the natural social organisation of these big cats was completely disturbed by their captivity. 

The male wanted to get rid of the female because she was on his territory and competing for that territory. This is my assessment. I may be completely wrong but it is the only possible assessment, I believe. This was about territory and ownership of it. It didn't matter whether they were male and female or male and male.

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