By NewsLine Staff

Born in November 2019, new jaguar cubs Rio and Diego were presented to the St. Augustine Wild Reserve from a jaguar conservation group. Deborah Warrick, founder and CEO of the St. Augustine Wild Reserve, said she

promised to use the two brothers for educational purposes, which is why she was allowed to take possession of these highly threatened cats. There are only about 15,000 jaguars left in the wild.

“Rio is our spotted jaguar, while Diego is our black jaguar, known as the melanistic color phase, which occurs due to a genetic mutation,” Warrick said. “Such a mutation causes the fur and skin to contain large amounts of dark pigments. Black jaguars prefer rainforests, since the dark foliage enables them to blend into the dark shadows of the forest.”

Jaguars are normally found in South America, and also range through Texas and Arizona. Their spots are called rosettes, and appear to be “spots within spots.” They are the largest cat in the Americas, and are the third largest cat in the world, just under the tiger and lion; they can weigh as much as 250 pounds.

Jaguars love to swim, much like tigers. They fish in rivers and also capture large crocodilians, biting deeply into their skulls, delivering a killing bite. (Other cats kill by biting the necks of their prey.) They even dunk their tails into water sources, luring fish. The name “jaguar” originates from the Native American word “yajuar,” which means “he who kills with one leap.”

Warrick shared the following coronavirus updates from the St. Augustine Wild Reserve: 

  • Now more than ever, we can use the donation of supplies for our animals, including monetary donations. Our tour operation has diminished considerably in the wake of this novel virus that is sweeping not just our nation, but the world. To protect our staff and guests, we sanitize everything, including our guest chairs and our limo cart, used to ferry handicapped individuals around the animal compound on tours. We offer hand sanitizer to our guests upon arrival and departure, and will be offering masks, once our order is shipped to us. 
  • This is an open-air compound and is always breezy, so we are less likely to contract a virus if we practice proper sanitation and social distancing. Guests are encouraged to stay at least six feet away from other guests. We hope that more visitors will book a tour with us through Our tours are appropriate for children and adults. If you cannot visit, consider helping through these rough times by sending a tax-deductible donation.

Staffed by a host of valuable volunteers, the St. Augustine Wild Reserve is always in need of new caging and animal supplies. Plans are to raise funds to construct an on-site veterinary clinic, and a barn for diet preparation. Contact the reserve at if you would like to volunteer, particularly if you have building/welding skills or fence working skills. The St Augustine Wild Reserve is a 501©3 tax exempt organization. Visit for more information.

The St. Augustine Wild Reserve offers tours on an appointment-only basis. Tours are on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 p.m. by appointment only. Call (904) 940-0664 for reservations or email Visit to book a tour online. Donations may be sent to 5190 Farm Creek Road, St. Augustine, FL 32092. 

Photo courtesy Deborah Warrick

Rio the spotted jaguar and Diego the black jaguar

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