Select Page

Hattiesburg’s New Resident: A Gorgeous Big Black Cat

Hattiesburg’s New Resident: A Gorgeous Big Black Cat

A lot of people love cats. My own love affair with cats began before I was old enough to say the word, and most of my life has been spent in the graceful presence of a cat. Right now, I serve as mother to a golden-eyed black cat named Balthezar, who sleeps with me at night and wanders the neighborhood most of the day. He is most certainly a beloved creature.

You may have already heard of another black cat that lives in your own neighborhood. She’s much larger than Balthezar. She’s a black jaguar that’s just moved into the Hattiesburg Zoo. Her name is Maya.

Maya previously lived at the Memphis Zoo, and according to Hattiesburg Zoo Animal Care Manager Stephen Taylor, she is doing well in her new home.

Maya’s dwelling consists of a replica Mayan temple, which allows her to climb (jaguars like to climb), and a water pool (jaguars like to swim) and a lot of toys (cats love to play).

Being a cat lover, one of the first questions I asked Taylor was: “Does she have any other animal friends with her?”

He patiently explained that if she did … she would eat them.

“Jaguars are solitary creatures by nature,”he said. “We’ve created a space for her that provides her with some of the elements she needs, but if we put another animal in her space, she would just eat it.”

Okay … moving on.

Because zoos provide great opportunities for teaching, clever parents and school teachers take the time to prepare children before going to the zoo.

“Some teachers bring kids on field trips, and they stop and read the signs, pointing things out to the kids,” Taylor said. “We love that”

“We have keepers all over the zoo who are just waiting to answer questions,” he continued. “Too often people just run wild, but we really appreciate those that respect the animals and take the time to learn.”

There’s also a real opportunity to teach compassion in terms of critical thinking and social skills: consideration of other creatures, for example, which transfers into being considerate in general.

Parents might want to ask their children how they might feel if they were in a cage, or how they think a particular animal feels.

Teachers and parents can create educational projects prior to visiting the zoo, including discussion of proper behavior while in public spaces. These discussions make a trip to the zoo about so much more than just having fun (Which, of course, it is!).

Taylor said winter is a good time to visit the zoo because “the animals are more active in cooler weather. In the summer, they tend to be more lethargic. There are a lot fewer people who come in the winter, which provides a special environment for visitors.”

The zoo features a concession area, so you can warm up with some hot cocoa.

After you prepare for your visit, go to the zoo and visit Maya. See if you can catch her eye. Wonder what she’s feeling and thinking.Wonder where she’s been. Wonder where she’s going.

If you’re lucky, you might even hear Maya’s amazing “RWOARRRR!”

 

Elizabeth Phelps was raised on the Gulf Coast. She is a writer, speaker, teacher, and youth program facilitator. She has won awards for writing and inspirational youth programming using the arts.

About The Author

Sponsor

Facebook Feed

Get In The Know

Get In The Know

We've offered creative solutions for families in Mississippi for over 25 years. And we're the best at it.

Awesome! We've got some incredible resources headed your way!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This