Orson, San Diego Zoo's black jaguar, dies at age 21

Sad news from the San Diego Zoo: Orson, the black jaguar who was a favorite of zoo visitors, has died at age 21.

Beset by a series of geriatric and mobility problems, Orson was euthanized Wednesday by zookeepers who had kept him on pain medicine in recent days but concluded that his condition was irreversible, officials said. A necropsy is planned.

Orson came to the zoo in 1993 from the zoo in Phoenix. Although big cats are notoriously solitary, Orson, who weighed about 200 pounds in his prime, seemed to enjoy preening and posing for visitors.

His species is most notably found in South America and Latin America and in sparse spots in the American Southwest. At age 21, Orson was considered elderly. In the wild, jaguars average a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, officials said.

Orson was the zoo's only black jaguar along Big Cat Row. The zoo's two other jaguars are the more common orange and tawny color.

Orson was tranquilized before the euthanasia injection was administered.

"He went peacefully, calmly and surrounded by folks who cared for him," said Jacob Shanks, lead keeper for Sun Bear Forest.


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