Miami-Dade County

Elderly jaguar at Zoo Miami euthanized due to poor health

Nieve, a 19-year-old jaguar at Zoo Miami, was euthanized this week when her health deteriorated due to her old age.
Nieve, a 19-year-old jaguar at Zoo Miami, was euthanized this week when her health deteriorated due to her old age. Zoo Miami

Keepers at Zoo Miami bid farewell to another beloved creature this week when Nieve the jaguar was euthanized after her health declined.

With a name that is the Spanish word for “snow” and an elegant, spotted coat, Nieve arrived in Miami four years ago. But at 19, Nieve had reached old age for a jaguar. In recent weeks, her keepers started noticing she wasn’t her usually cheerful, energetic self. She grew lethargic and started eating less.

It was determined that Nieve was suffering from renal failure, which is common among big cats her age. Even though Nieve had survived and bounced back from the removal of a grapefruit-sized tumor from her abdomen in late July, her condition worsened.

The prognosis was bad for the elderly big cat, so Zoo Miami staff decided to humanely put her to rest. Nieve, originally from South America, far exceeded the usual life expectancy for jaguars — the average lifespan for a wild jaguar is 12-14 years.

“Her keepers will miss her profoundly and feel fortunate to have been given the opportunity to care for her,” read a statement released Friday by Zoo Miami.

Nieve’s death comes just two months after the zoo had to euthanize 19-year-old Danda-Loo, who was the oldest koala in North American and Europe. Several animals have died in recent years as many among the zoo’s population who have been there since the early 1980s age past their natural lifespan.

Matt James, general curator at the zoo, remembered Nieve as a sweet, playful jaguar who loved interacting with keepers. She was brought to Miami for breeding purposes, and even though she did not have any offspring, she did teach the boys how to attract a lady.

“She did a great job of teaching males how to court females,” he said.

Nieve was motivated by food. Her big appetite made her fun to play with and easy to train.

“She didn’t miss any meals,” he said. “She was a full-figured girl.”

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