New Orleans,
16:12 PM

Audubon Zoo Mourns Loss of Geriatric Female Jaguar, Ix Chel

Update: September 17, 2:30pm

Audubon Zoo is deeply saddened to announce that Ix Chel, our 21-year-old female jaguar, has passed away. 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. Jaguars in the wild are estimated to live between 12 and 15 years.

She was a favorite of visitors as well as staff and was frequently photographed. She will be affectionately remembered as a spectacular mother. If the public would like to share any memories or thoughts with the Zoo staff and volunteers during this difficult time, please leave a note on Audubon Zoo's Facebook page. Thank you for your support.

September 13, 4pm

Audubon animal care staff is working to care for Ix Chel, the 21-year-old female jaguar at Audubon Zoo, who is experiencing health issues.  

She is currently suffering from renal insufficiency, a diagnosis she received about a year ago. This is a common illness among geriatric animals, especially aging cats. 

Ix Chel is being monitored very closely by animal care staff and veterinarians. She is receiving excellent care by Audubon's expert team and being provided opportunities for daily enrichment. She will be examined this week to make sure Audubon is doing all it can to enhance her comfort level and help maintain her quality of life.  

“Many of the animals in our care are geriatric,” says Dr Bob MacLean, Senior Veterinarian. “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,” says MacLean. 

The typical lifespan of a jaguar in the wild is estimated at around 12–15 years. 

Born at the Gaudalajara Zoo in 1997, Ix Chel hasbeen part of the Audubon family since 1998. She has been a great contributor to the Jaguar Species Survival Plan giving birth to five cubs at Audubon Zoo. Those cubs have gone on to have nearly two dozen offspring of their own, enhancing the jaguar population in human care. The status of jaguars in the wild is near threatened, as hunting and habitat loss due to deforestation continues to threaten their survival. 

"When you think of an ambassador for their species, Ix Chel is top notch, " says Liz Wilson, Curator of Louisiana Swamp and Jaguar Jungle.

"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," says Wilson.

Audubon Zoo is home to two jaguars, Ix Chel and Valerio, who are both being cared for behind the scenes as improvements to their habitat are being made. The jaguar exhibit is set to reopen in the fall. 

Audubon Nature Institute

Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park. Ron Forman is President and CEO of Audubon Nature Institute.