Akron Zoo mourns the loss of beloved jaguar


The Akron Zoo is heartbroken to share the passing of its female jaguar, Naom. The zoo’s veterinary care team made the decision to humanely euthanize 18 ½-year-old Naom due to a recent overall decline in her health, along with complications associated with mammary cancer. The median life expectancy for jaguars is 18 years old. 

Naom was diagnosed with cancer in August 2019 after her care team noticed a mass growing on her abdomen. Biopsy results showed that the mass was cancerous. Due to her age and the size and growth of the tumor, the zoo’s vet team determined that surgery was not in Naom’s best interest.

Naom was born on Feb. 15, 2001 at the Audubon Nature Institute. She arrived at the Akron Zoo in May 2002. 

“Naom was a longtime member of our Akron Zoo family and she will be dearly missed,” said Doug Piekarz, president and CEO at the Akron Zoo. “I want to express my heartfelt thanks to her professional care team for providing Naom with the best care possible throughout her life, especially over the past few months in her battle with cancer.”

Jaguars are classified as threatened by the IUCN. Populations are steadily decreasing due to habitat and prey loss. The Akron Zoo participates in the Jaguar Species Survival Plan (SSP), a program through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) that strives to establish a genetically-diverse population of jaguars in AZA-accredited facilities as a safeguard against extinction. Naom welcomed two litters of cubs – two cubs in 2005 and three cubs in 2009. 

“Mammary cancer is hormonally-linked in all animals,” said Dr. Kim Cook, senior director of life sciences at the Akron Zoo. “Jaguars are more prone to mammary cancer than other big cats, and there are ongoing studies meant to figure out why that is.  We know there are genetic links, and we are finding out some very interesting things about the BRCA1 gene in jaguars.” 

Naom’s daughter, Bella, remains in the jaguar habitat daily, weather permitting.