WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society mourns the passing of Nabalam, the oldest-living female jaguar among institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. She was almost 23-years-old.
“She was beloved by many, and all of her keepers and associated staff had a chance to say their goodbyes,” said Jan Steele, the Zoo’s director of wildlife care and conservation.
Nabalam was diagnosed with compromised kidney function following her January 2017 annual physical. Recently, she began coughing and refusing to take her medication, which led medical staff to call in an internal medicine specialist.
“Thursday morning Nabalam was given a full medical examination including blood work, urinalysis, radiographs, and ultrasound,” said Steele. “It was determined that she had terminal cancer similar to breast cancer, her kidney function was getting worse, she had masses in her uterus, and cysts on her ovaries.”
While all surgeries present a level of risk, due to Nabalam’s age the risk was exacerbated. Treatment would have required extensive surgery, which would have been potentially fatal. In addition, the surgical procedure would have required a ten-day stay in the hospital, which would have created a stressful situation.
“We did not want Nabalam to be in excruciating pain,” said Steele. “After careful assessment, the Zoo’s medical leaders made the decision not to wake her from the procedure.”
The median life expectancy for jaguars is 17.8 years, which Nabalam exceeded by over five years.
“Her life is a testament to the quality of care animals receive from our world-class medical staff,” said Steele.
Nabalam has sixteen living descendants. She is responsible for producing 3.2 percent of the 121 jaguars currently living in U.S. zoos, and eleven percent of the 149 jaguars found in zoos throughout the continent of North America (US, Canada, and Mexico).
Nabalam leaves behind her twelve-year-old daughter Izel, who shares the Jaguar Habitat sponsored by Jaguar Palm Beach, with Fiona, the three-year-old orphan jaguar from Panama. The two jaguars reside in the award-winning Tropics of America section of the Zoo, and a new arrival is expected by April.
“The Species Survival plan has found the perfect mate for Fiona, a two-year-old male jaguar from Zoo de Granby in Quebec, Canada, named Zooka,” said Steele. “We are very excited that our Panamanian little girl will have a French Canadian boyfriend by early next summer.”
The Zoo’s conservation work with jaguars extends around the globe. Zookeepers have participated in jaguar field studies and research in Bolivia’s Madidi National Park as part of a conservation program for the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Their roles as animal ambassadors are critical as hunting and habitat loss due to deforestation continue to threaten the survival of these marvelous cats,” said Steele.