take a peek inside the jaguar nighthouse during sophia's annual exam

An annual health checkup might seem routine, but with jaguars – one of the most powerful cats in the world - there's a lot to consider.

“I respect our jaguars because I know they have the strongest bite, pound for pound, of any big cat,” said Kevin Hertell, Happy Hollow's Zoo Manager.

The week of February 25, Sophia - Happy Hollow's 15-year-old jaguar - underwent her exam, and preparation began Monday night when her food was restricted to ensure her stomach was empty before receiving anesthesia. Anesthetic drugs can cause vomiting in some animals, which can lead to pneumonia.

The morning of Tuesday, Feb. 26, Sophia received a tranquilizer dart, which took approximately 15 minutes to take effect. “Tranquilizers can take several minutes to kick in, but sometimes we need to give them more tranquilizer if they aren't fully asleep. So it was a relief that it took quickly and we didn’t have to administer another dose,” said Happy Hollow Veterinary Technician, Rachel Atkins.

Once fully sedated, the veterinary team entered Sophia’s night house. And that’s when the real work started. Dr. Peak, one of Sophia’s veterinarians, led the team through an intubation to keep her airway open, and later collected blood and urine samples.

Once the endotracheal tube was in place, Dr. McCormick performed an ultrasound and took x-rays, which Dr. Abrahams helped analyze. The team was also able to weigh her (she weighed in at 77 pounds) and check her vital signs. The exam took roughly an hour.

"It involves quite a team,” said Senior Zookeeper Kelley Walsh. “But it’s something we have to do. Regular exams help us discover problems before they become critical, and large cats must be under anesthesia for everyone’s safety.”

By the end of the day, Sophia was awake and active. Her keepers report she was a little grumpier than normal, but otherwise looking good. ??












































 Association of Zoos and Aquariums Happy Hollow FoundationSpecies Survival Plan