Touching the Jaguar

I touched a jaguar once.

(A real one, not a fun, fake jaguar like the one in this picture below!)

jungle zoo (15)
Rachel & Danny at the zoo in Pucallpa, Peru – 2011

He was amazingly gorgeous, his glistening black coat giving the appearance of deepest midnight until I stepped closer to his cage and saw the leopard spots hidden in his dark pigmentation.  He was stretched out full-length and appeared to be sleeping in the old fashioned zoo cage, with its iron bars six inches apart, leaving plenty of room for my hand to reach in.

Pucallpa zoo – 2005

I had already shaken hands with several different kinds of monkeys along the zoo walk, as they reached their furry little paws through their cages.  I’m sure they were just trying to coax an illegal snack out of yet another park visitor, but I felt emboldened by their touch; they really didn’t seem that wild at all.  By the time I came to the jaguar’s cage and saw him sleeping there in all his beauty, I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to reach through those old-fashioned metal bars and touch him too.  After all, petting one of nature’s great cats had been a childhood dream; how could I miss out on this golden opportunity?

So I stretched out my hand and I touched that jaguar on his back leg.  Nothing happened.

jaguar whiskers
Photo by Photo Collections on

So I did it again.

This time I decided to pet him on his shoulder, close to those thick, black, barely twitching whiskers.

And this time something happened.

I have never heard anything quite as loud and frightening as that cat’s angry scream!  His shriek was followed by three more ear-piercing screams, as my friends and I scrambled over each other to leap away from his cage.

I will freely admit that touching the jaguar was probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done!

black jag
Black jaguar in the Huachipa zoo, Lima

But it provided me with a wonderful, yet sobering illustration of the tantalizing power of sin…

… how it can look so beautiful and harmless…

…how it can make you think that doing this one thing will be the fulfillment of a life-long dream…

…that you will be a fool if you miss this opportunity…

…that you can get close enough to touch it just once without causing any harm.

But the second time it just might be deadly.

Be alert and of sober mind.    Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8


Just for fun – a few links about black jaguars:

Do Black Jaguars have spots?  / One Wild Fact / Earth Unplugged 

Rare Black Jaguar Cubs in Lima Zoo – we saw these babies in 2011… they were SO cute!

Black Jaguar Death Stare

Photo by Photo Collections on

2 thoughts on “Touching the Jaguar

  1. Van Morrison has a wonderful song about a lion in a circus. It’s one of my favorites. There’s a line, “They couldn’t take away his throne, he knows that he must stand alone.” I think of this song when I see the caged animals at the zoo. It’s definitely worth a listen if anybody has a few minutes!

    Sin always leads to death, even when it looks pretty. I think about “little” sins this way and it helps me see more clearly. Thanks for the good thoughts.


    1. I don’t think I’ve heard that song, Liz… I’ll have to look it up. I always feel a pang of pity for zoo animals, too, even though that’s often our best way to appreciate them.


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