WELLINGTON, Fla. - It only took Judy Berens a few hours to determine that a newborn jaguar had been rejected by her mother.
Isabella was hand fed by Berens inside her home at Panther Ridge Conservation Center in Wellington.
Four and a half years later, Bella lives in her own habitat at Panther Ridge, along with 16 other threatened or endangered big cats.
Now, Bella faces a new challenge: She's recovering from surgery in May. Vets at the University of Florida removed a mass from her mouth. Sutures didn't hold and there were complications. It meant a $10 thousand bill for the center.
Although the mass was benign, veterinarians want to see Bella again to monitor enzymes and blood work. The non-profit facility is finding it challenging to pay the bills.
Berens has worked for years to improve the welfare of ocelots, panthers, jaguars and other threatened and endangered big cats. She is hoping Bella continues to improve and eventually enters a breeding program.
The financial challenges of medical care, along with increasing costs for food and other supplies to feed the big cats, are tough for Panther Ridge.
If you can help, or if you'd like more info, go to: pantherridgecc.org