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Valencia students participate in naming of jaguar

At the Valencia Middle School mascot-naming assembly on Friday, September 25, school spirit was at a frenzied level as all three grades gathered to hear which name would be selected for their jaguar mascot. Earlier that morning, the entire school entered their votes in anticipation of the afternoon assembly. The event was a companion event to the Tucson Center for Biological Diversity's naming of the actual jaguar roaming the Santa Rita Mountains.

"It dawned on us that a whole lot of people in Tucson don't even know that we have a jaguar living in our backyard," Randy Serraglio admitted, who is the Southwest Conservation Advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity. "We wanted to get the word out and educate people about these beautiful animals."

"We were approached by... [Randy] over the summer," Valencia Principal Patricia Acosta explained. "They had researched schools and found out our mascot was a jaguar. We had bought a mascot costume and did not have a name for it, so it was perfect."

Serraglio agreed. "We were like, 'Alright, let's name the mascot, and you can help us name the real jaguar.'" His plan is to take the votes used to name the Valencia mascot and factor them into the vote for the real jaguar, whose name will be revealed in October.

The event was received with energy and enthusiasm from the student body. Students from each grade participated in a "food, water and shelter" relay race. The participants had to chug a bottle of water, eat a bag of animal crackers and lay on a foam bed before crossing the finish line. Deafening cheers rang out multiple times during the race and throughout the assembly, especially when the mascot's name, "El Jefe," was announced. It was an overwhelming favorite.

"It's just been awesome, amazing," Acosta remarked. "Our kids have totally eaten this up."

Jaguars used to roam the Southwest freely and even existed as far east as Louisiana before the population was wiped out by hunting, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Few still exist in Mexico, but the lone male roaming the Santa Rita Mountains is the only one known north of the border. Serraglio is optimistic that with care and environmental protection, that can change.

"You know, with the kind of spirit I saw here today and we protect the places where these animals live, and they will come back."

For more information about the naming of the actual jaguar and the history of jaguars in the region, see the Tucson Center for Biological Diversity's website.