Inka in her home home at Chester Zoo
A rare black jaguar has arrived at Chester Zoo as part of a programme to safeguard the species across Europe.
The wildcat, named Inka, has been moved from The Big Cat Sanctuary in Kent.
The two-year-old, described as "strikingly beautiful, bold and confident", was chosen as a fitting companion for Chester's resident male jaguar, Napo.
Dave Hall, Team Manager of Carnivores at Chester Zoo, said: "The union between her and Napo, the resident male here in Chester, has been carefully orchestrated by carnivore experts from here (Chester Zoo) and The Big Cat Sanctuary and the coordinators of a programme that’s working in partnership to ensure a genetically viable population of jaguars across Europe.
"We hope the two of them will go to form a strong and meaningful bond, and the early signs are positive."
Carnivore experts at the zoo say Inka's arrival will help put a spotlight on the "remarkable" species and support a European programme to ensure a genetically healthy population of jaguars within the continent's major conservation zone.
Jaguars are listed as 'Near Threatened' by environmental authority group, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and scientists are concerned they may become vulnerable to extinction in the near future. Dave Hall said: "Like Napo, Inka is a wonderful ambassador for her species.
"Jaguars are remarkable animals and the two of them together will help us to raise more much-needed awareness of the survival challenges that they face in the wild, the work that’s already being done by zoos, our partners and the local conservationists and communities to protect the ecosystems that jaguars live in, and help us to inspire further action for their conservation."
Conservationists say jaguars are facing an uncertain future, with a number of threats including habitat loss, illegal hunting and conflict with humans causing numbers in the wild to decline.
Paul Bamford, Regional Field Programmes Manager for the Americas at Chester Zoo, added: "Deforestation and habitat fragmentation are reducing jaguar populations across their range. According to the IUCN, close to 70% of deforestation in Latin America is driven by industrial agriculture, primarily for soy, oil palm and cattle production."Many of these products are exported to countries such as the UK, and therefore, our shopping habits can have a significant impact on global biodiversity loss. In our role as consumers, we are unwittingly contributing to the destruction of nature on our planet."At Chester Zoo we are working to influence policy, both in the UK and internationally, to address this. We are supporting efforts to improve production standards and legislation so that deforestation is minimised, or eliminated for good, and wildlife can live safely alongside productive areas.
"The goal is to create a deforestation-free economy, in which countries are able to meet their development needs sustainably. If we can break the link between habitat loss and production, then we have the opportunity secure a future for people and wildlife."
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