EXCLUSIVE: Hattiesburg Zoo welcomes new all-black-jaguar

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The Hattiesburg Zoo told FOX 23 news they are excited to welcome Maya its new 13-year-old black jaguar from Memphis zoo.

Officials said Maya is on a loan, but they expect her to be with the zoo her entire life. Maya's Zookeeper Stephen Taylor said, "She's got a lot of emotion, she's only 100 pounds, which is pretty small for a jaguar, but she makes up for that small size with her big personality."

The zoo lost Sampson the jaguar back in January 2016 and it finally made plans to bring in a new jaguar.

VisitHattiesburg's Executive Director Rick Taylor said, "We hope that they will come to love Maya as much as they have loved Sampson."

He added, "Jaguars are very unusual creatures, to have a black jaguar is very unusual, to have it in Hattiesburg is very special."

The zoo said they will welcome Maya with open arms. "She's got to get used to a new group of people and a new setting" said Stephen.

Maya will live behind the scenes for at least 30 days before she is introduced to the public. Zookeepers said its for her to slowly get to know her keepers and maintain her health. "We can already tell that she has calmed down quite a bit" said Stephen.

"All the animals have to go through a quarantine period, that is just to make sure they are healthy and make sure they have no other disease or parasites that might spread to the animals."

Stephen added, "It is not really common at all for us to keep an animal for more than 30 days, since most zoo's are going to be very clean and all the animals are going to be very healthy."

"It is just still precautionary period we take with every single animal we get" Stephen continued.

He said Maya's new home is double the size from the one in Memphis. “She also has a beautiful pool in here that Sampson always enjoyed to get in, it is something that she did not have in her original home. And we have all kinds of different levels for her to play on.”

Stephen said the zoo wants Maya to have a natural transition. “If you look all the way to the top of the waterfall up there, she can actually look down, and see the alpacas, the anteaters, which really to her are her natural prey animals that she would find in the wild.

He laughed, "So it going to be like watching the foot network to her right there in the wild.”

Although the zoo said they will always remember Sampson, they are ready to share Maya with Hattiesburgers.

Taylor said, “Of course the jaguar is a very special one, we are glad to have her, we expect more people to come out and will let us to continue pushing our message to young people about preservation of animals in the wild.”

Zoo officials are hoping to introduce Maya a little before Thanksgiving.

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