The Jaguar

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.

The Maned Wolf

A pair of maned wolves on a private ranch in the low humid Chaco of Paraguay. Less than 30 kilometers from Asuncion, this site was one of the most promising for maned wolves that S.P.E.C.I.E.S. investigated in the country

The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is the largest canid of South America. Standing approximately 35 inches tall with relatively large ears and a slender build (about 50 pounds), the maned wolf is not a wolf at all, but a distinct evolutionary lineage of canids unique to South America.

More like a tall, strikingly reddish fox, its closest relative is the Falkland Islands Wolf (Dusicyon australis), a canid that was recently hunted into extinction for its fur.  Perfectly adapted to the Cerrado and Humid Chaco mixed grassland, shrub, and savanna regions it inhabits across Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, the maned wolf uses its exceptional hearing to locate the small mammals it preys on in the thick grasses they use for cover.s one of the most promising for maned wolves that S.P.E.C.I.E.S. investigated in the country.

Scat of the maned wolf showing the pits the “Lobeira” or “wolf” apple (Solanum lycocarpum), a staple in the maned wolf’s diet across much of its range in the Cerrado, Chaco, and Atlantic Forest habitat

Although capable of occasionally taking larger prey like brocket deer, the maned wolf is as much a rodent specialist as it is a forager of locally abundant fruits, particularly the appropriately named wolf apple or lobeira, a plant commonly found in the scat of the species across much of its range.  Unlike other species of canid its size, maned wolves are generally solitary, nocturnal, or crepuscular hunters, occasionally venturing forth when the skies are overcast and rainy.  Whereas monogamous pairs may defend large territories, they may rarely do so together and generally associate only during mating, or when there are two to six pups to rear.



Currently classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN, some maned wolf populations are declining, while others may be regionally expanding.  This is because while agricultural transformation of formerly forested lands may be creating marginal to suitable habitat for the species in some areas, in others, intensive agricultural land uses, urbanization, fragmentation, and competition and diseases from domestic dogs, may present a serious threat to the canid.  Given its unique evolutionary heritage, a better understanding of these relationships should be considered a priority for conservation planning efforts.  In Paraguay, S.P.E.C.I.E.S. is beginning to investigate these processes, pioneering the first such project for the canid in the country’s Humid Chaco ecoregion.

Maned wolf that was killed on the Gran Chaco Highway in Paraguay. As elsewhere like Brazil, vehicles may be a major source of mortality for the species in the region.