"It's precious!"

That's how Tammy Schmidt, carnivore curator at the Philadelphia Zoo, gushed yesterday about the zoo's newest resident - a 2 1/2-pound jaguar that measured about 15 inches long.

The cub, which doesn't have a name yet because zoo personnel haven't determined its gender, was born Friday to mother Kanga and father Jutai.

Because jaguars are categorized as near-threatened, Schmidt called the birth "really significant."

"It's an honor for us to participate in the SSP program," Schmidt said, referring to Species Survivor Plan, which is "kind of like a Match.com" for zoo animals.

On the recommendation of zoo professionals, Philly brought in Kanga from Massachusetts to mate with Jutai, and the two jaguars hit it off from the beginning, Schmidt said. The staff soon began counting the days and making adjustments to Kanga's bedroom areas in anticipation of the birth.

Schmidt said that Kanga "showed instant mother behavior."

The staff now remains relatively hands-off so that the mother and baby can develop a strong bond. They watch on their monitoring system as the cub, which hasn't opened its eyes, stays close to its protective mother.

Although jaguars mature quickly, the baby will not be open to public view until August.

First, the zoo will need to "baby-proof" the yard, and, of course, they need to come up with a name.

"I just refer to it as precious, precious child!" Schmidt said.