The Jaguar

Photo by Shanaka Aravinda/Flickr CC

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest cat in the Americas and the third-largest feline in the world, behind only the tiger and the lion.

The jaguar roams a variety of habitats. Although it prefers densely wooded areas and thick rainforests, it can also be found in scrublands and deserts. Its range stretches from Southwestern United States down through Mexico and Central America to the South of Paraguay and Northern Argentina.

As an apex predator, the jaguar is at the top of the food chain. Within its habitat, it isn’t a particularly fussy eater . Known as a dietary generalist, the jaguar will eat a wide range of species including large animals such as caiman, deer, peccaries and tapirs, and smaller critters like monkeys and sloths.

Unlike other felines, the jaguar employs a particularly distinctive method to dispatch its prey. Along with the common deep throat-bite, which other cats use, the jaguar pierces the skull of its prey with a sharp bite between the ears, thus piercing the brain and killing their target.

Throughout its range, the jaguar is considered “Near Threatened”. Despite still being considered an abundant species, the loss and fragmentation of habitat, conflict with farmers, and illegal hunting are all contributing to its decline in the wild. Within its range, studies have shown that the area best suited to jaguar survival is the Amazon basin rainforest and parts of the Pantanal and Gran Chaco.

For this reason, S.P.E.C.I.E.S launched the Chaco Jaguar Conservation Project in 2008, the first and only program committed to the long-term conservation of the species across the Gran Chaco. The project seeks to map the jaguar’s range, reduce jaguar-human conflict, and raise public awareness of jaguar conservation issues and more.