There was a time when flying tigers were the only cats sighted in the skies. Now it seems they've been joined by jaguars.When a group of Bolivian jaguars needed a lift to their new homes at the Fort Worth Zoo, Denver Zoo and Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, they hopped a ride with DHL. Bebeto and Nieve, along with their male offspring and a fourth jaguar named Jorge, were VIP passengers on a March flight out of Miami, via DHL's northern Kentucky hub. From there, the big cats flew on separate aircraft to the Fort Worth, Denver and Woodland Park Zoos.
As for why anyone would fly jaguars around the United States, the move was part of a captive management program. Wild jaguars in the area around Santa Cruz, Bolivia, are considered a menace to local livestock, and as is often the case, Bebeto, Nieve and Jorge were captured and placed with the Santa Cruz Zoo (where Bebeto and Nieve's offspring was later born). From there, arrangements were made to send the big cats on to the three U.S. zoos, all of which are part of the Jaguar Species Survival Plan—a program developed to maintain a genetically healthy population of jaguars in zoos, and to educate zoo visitors about jaguars and ecosystem conservation.
So how do you ship a jaguar? Very carefully, as the old joke goes. The crates carrying the cats were secured with TSA-certified pallets, nets and straps during transport, and were loaded onto forward positions on board the aircraft so handlers would have access to the cats as needed during the flight. DHL personnel loaded the cats onto the aircraft last and unloaded them first upon arrival, minimizing the amount of time the jaguars spent on the aircraft.
DHL, which handles numerous shipments of rare and wild animals each year, worked closely with the zoos and zookeepers for two months to plan every aspect of the shipment.More than 50 people helped in the planning for the move, which required them to take into account such factors as crate specifications, jaguar weights, U.S. Customs clearance requirements, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service requirements, in-flight temperatures, and the animals' food and water needs.
"The two most important elements of successful animal transports are research and preparation," says Joe Collopy, the DHL executive who led the team responsible for the move. "We gather as much information about the specific animal being transported; and then we look at the transport from every angle—beginning to end—to ensure that the move runs like clockwork."