One beloved resident of an Indiana zoo has defied the odds, and she just celebrated her 18th birthday.

Beliza Is a Long-Time Resident of Mesker Park Zoo

Beliza the jaguar has been a long-time resident of Evansville, Indiana's Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden. In 2009, she and her late companion Cuxtel parented two female jaguar cubs.

A Terminal Cancer Diagnosis for Beliza


On September 17, 2019, the zoo shared on its Facebook page the heartbreaking news that Beliza had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Officials said they did not know how much time she had left and that she was being monitored closely by her zoo keepers and veterinary staff.

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Indiana Jaguar Defies the Odds

Beliza continued to thrive despite the cancer diagnosis and in March 2022 the zoo commemorated her Sweet Sixteen. At that time the zoo shared that the female jaguar had been receiving oral medication and "best-in-class care," along with lots of treats.

READ MORE: Mesker Park Zoo Earns AZA Accreditation

Loss of a Longtime Companion

Five months after Beliza celebrated her sixteenth birthday in 2022, her longtime companion Cuxtel passed away after complications from an examination. It was later determined that Cuxtel had suffered from severe kidney disease and lymphoma of the liver and spleen.

Beliza the Jaguar Celebrates Her 18th Birthday

Fast forward nearly five years after her terminal cancer diagnosis, and Beliza is thriving as a favorite of visitors to Mesker Park Zoo. On March 17, 2024, the zoo threw a birthday party to help the big cat ring in her 18th birthday! According to Amazon Explorer, the average life expectancy for a jaguar in captivity is around 22 years.

While it is unknown just how many more years we will get to celebrate Beliza, one thing is for certain - visitors and guests to the zoo love seeing her thrive. If you would like to learn more about Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden, including how to buy tickets or become a member, visit

5 Reasons to Visit Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana

There is quite an adventure on the West Side of Evansville, Indiana. What kind of adventure - It's a zoo! Mesker Park Zoo & Botanical Gardens is open 365 days a year and offers family memberships.

Gallery Credit: Liberty

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