One Tank Trip

One Tank Trip: Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - In the wild, even in a sanctuary, there is only a one in 17,000 chance you'll even see one. Here, just give it a few minutes and you might be able to sit next to him.

Jaguars have been at the Elmwood Park Zoo in Norristown for about 20 years but now, in a new space, you can see them in a new way along the Trail of the Jaguar.

"We have four jaguars now. So we have mom and dad. Mom is Inka," said lead keeper Hannah Fullmer.

The dad is Zean, and the cubs, Diego and Luna, were born in January,

The 5,000 square-foot space is their home, which is separated but shared with a red fox named Saki, frogs, lizards and birds.

Before it became the big cat condo, it used to be the pony corral. Now there are waterways and overhead walkways.

"I think one of the main things that people are picking up on in this exhibit is that jaguars are not only found in South America, it's not just jungle animals," Fullmer added.

They were here in the U.S., in the southwestern states.

Hunting had them disappearing in the 1940s.

Recently though, a jaguar was spotted on this side of the border. A male, known as El Jefe, which means 'The Boss,' was first seen a few years ago. A few more have been seen since.

Lead keepers Fullmer and Joe Proto focus on the care, learning and teaching as they go.

"Jaguars are the third largest cat behind the lion and tiger but even though they are smaller than the two they have the strongest bite force out of all the big cats," Proto explained.

Instead of going for the neck on their prey as other cats often do, they can bite right through the skull. Interesting that when they are cubs, they look so cuddly.

At Elmwood Park Zoo, you see them as a family of big cats. The dad is often lounging out for all to see and capture on camera.

"Zean doesn't care about much, right now he only has [the mom, Inka] on the brain again," Fullmer said.

Apparently Zean is ready for some more couple time.

"And if you kinda look from his perspective where he's looking you can actually see the large exhibit so if she crosses paths or anything, he's super zoned in on it. It's great right?" Fullmer added.

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