The jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas and the third largest in the world, surpassed only by the tiger and the lion, is a solitary and majestic figure that stands as the last survivor of the genus Panthera on the American continent.
Distribution and habitat
Scientifically known as Panthera onca, this feline is distributed in America from northern Mexico to Argentina where it is known by the common names Jaguar or Yaguareté which derives from the indigenous Guarani word meaning “the true beast”.
Currently, the jaguar can be found in 18 countries in the American continent, with the highest concentration in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. However, it is believed that the jaguar currently occupies only 50% of its original range, and it has gone extinct in El Salvador and Uruguay.
The jaguar’s habitat is typically characterized by dense forest cover, mainly primary and secondary forest such as the Amazon rainforest or the yungas, although they can also inhabit wetlands such as the Pantanal in Brazil and even dry tropical forests and xeric habitats such as the Gran Chaco in Argentina.
The jaguar’s relationship with water is fundamental to its survival, as it is the species within the Panthera genus most associated with this element. This is reflected in the highest concentrations of jaguars in humid tropical forests. However, this characteristic also puts them in conflict with the expansion of high-intensity agriculture since they share the need to access nearby water sources for irrigation.
Facts about the jaguar:
Largest Carnivore in the Americas: The jaguar is the largest carnivorous feline found in the Americas, with a powerful constitution that makes it a formidable predator.
Third largest feline in the world: Globally, the jaguar ranks third in size among felines, being surpassed only by the lion and tiger.
Last Panthera of America: The jaguar is the last representative of the Panthera genus in the Americas, making it a treasure trove of the continent’s biodiversity.
Weight and size: Adult jaguars can weigh between 40 and 110 kilograms and measure up to 2 meters long, including the tail that can reach 80 centimeters.
Powerful Bite: The jaguar has the most powerful bite of all felines. Its jaw is capable of piercing the skull or shell of turtles with ease, making it a formidable predator.
Meaning of Jaguar: The word “Yaguarete” comes from the Guarani language and translates to “the true beast”.
Skilled swimmer: Despite being a feline, the jaguar is a skilled swimmer and can cross rivers and lagoons with ease.
Solitary Behavior: The jaguar is known to be a solitary hunter and prefers solitude in its hunting style.
Large territories: Depending on the type of climate and the availability of resources, a male jaguar may require a range of territory of up to 250 square kilometers to find enough prey and maintain his dominance.
Longevity: Jaguars can live between 12 and 15 years in the wild.
Master of Camouflage: The jaguar’s fur, with dark spots on a gold or yellow background, provides it with amazing camouflage in its jungle environment.
Difference with leopards: Jaguars are often confused with leopards, but the difference lies in the spots. Jaguars have small black spots on the inside of their rosettes, while leopards have solid spots without these spots.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the jaguar is listed as a species in “near threatened” status. Deforestation, illegal hunting, and human-jaguar conflict are the main threats to this species.
Deforestation is closely related to the expansion of industrial agriculture in Latin America. Between 2000 and 2010, this activity accounted for 80% of deforestation in the region. As a result, natural jaguar habitats are reduced and fragmented, which in turn leads to the loss of connectivity between jaguar populations. These connectivity corridors, crucial to the long-term survival of the species, are often located outside protected areas and are vulnerable to human impacts.
This loss of connectivity is observed at the local and regional level, with concerning examples, such as the near disappearance of jaguar habitat connectivity between Honduras and Guatemala, as well as similar losses in the Chaco, Iguazú and the Atlantic Forest, and between Tamaulipas and Veracruz.
Poaching and illegal trade in jaguar body parts, as well as deaths caused by human-jaguar conflicts due to livestock predation and competition for bushmeat with human hunters, are additional threats. Increasing pressure on wildlife as a food source increases the risk to the jaguar, especially in sparsely populated countries, where the expansion of agriculture, industry and urbanization further fragments its habitat and facilitates access to wildlife for hunting.
This situation has already led to the extinction of jaguar populations in countries such as El Salvador, Uruguay, and the United States. Even in supposedly protected areas, jaguars often suffer human impacts, including illegal hunting. The species’ vulnerability to persecution is illustrated by its disappearance in the southwestern United States in the mid-20th century.
Jaguar conservation through our REDD+ projects
Biodiversity conservation is one of our fundamental pillars. Since 2019, we work to safeguard more than 50,000 hectares of native forest in the Amazon rainforest through the Western Amazon Grouped REDD+ project. Our focus is on creating effective strategies to curb the expansion of unsustainable agriculture, a factor that seriously threatens jaguar habitat.
In 2021, we took a significant step by initiating the activities of the first REDD+ project in Argentina, Selva de Urundel, where we protect more than 40,000 hectares of native forest in the Yungas. In active collaboration with local communities and in close cooperation with national parks, we strive to prevent fires, end deforestation and combat illegal activities, such as hunting.
Our work in these ecosystems is not limited to preservation, but also includes a thorough survey of wildlife and field sampling. This research has significantly enriched our understanding of biodiversity in these regions, strengthening our conservation efforts and enabling us to more effectively protect the valuable biological diversity that characterizes these areas, so essential to jaguar development.
Likewise, we seek to expand our projects with the aim of creating biological corridors, which allow wildlife to move freely in a safe environment conducive to their natural development.
Within our conservation activities, we emphasize the installation of camera traps that allow us to monitor wildlife. Our technicians work hard, going deep into the forest to collect valuable material. Thanks to these cameras, we have had the privilege of spotting the majestic jaguar, which underscores the immense importance of preserving these ecosystems.