The new habitat will span about two acres of zoo land and is the biggest single improvement in the zoo’s history. The zoo traces its root to the early 20th century but did not became a formal accredited zoo until the mid 1980’s, according to Cheyenne Catli, speaking for the zoo.
The new inhabitants featured May 13 will be three cougar (AKA mountain lion) kittens an adult cougar and a young jaguar. The adult mountain lion, Santiago, arrived at the zoo as a young orphan in 2011. He was found in Oregon, treated in Rosamond California and then came to the zoo. The two sisters found in Thousand Oaks will be joined by a young male, Ray. He was hit by a car in Monterey, California, also in November 2021. The zoo treated the two girls for malnutrition and the boy for serious injuries, Catli said. Car accidents are a major source of injury and death for wildlife in California.
Normally, cougars remain with their mother for up to two years. The kittens were so young it was decided they would not survive in the wild, Catli said.
The jaguar is about two years old and comes from a zoo in Arizona. His name is Ziggy and he is melanistic, essentially all black. Their new home includes artificial rock walls, climbing platforms, a waterfall and a bridge for them to walk overhead. It is designed to bring zoo patrons close to the animals and give them as natural an environment as possible. The release noted that it can be configured in different ways for inclusion and separation of the inhabitants. Jaguars are the largest wild cat in the Americas. They once were common in the southwest but their range is now highly restricted. A few may cross the border into New Mexico and Arizona. Although less common than the spotted cousins, melanistic jaguars arise frequently and can do well in the wild.
The opening weekend for the habitat will feature a naming contest for the girls and a slew of family oriented activities.
Orange County Third District Supervisor Donald P. Wagner praised the zoo’s contributions to the community and its dedication to spotlighting regional wildlife and rescues. The zoo is located in Irvine Regional Park. It is part of the OC Parks system which manages about 60,000 acres of wildlands, open space historical and coastal assets.,