Conservation status: NEAR THREATENED
Population: 64,000 (DECREASING)
Artist: Kyle, Bexhill Academy Sunderland
Project: Where Did All the Animals Go? 2019
The jaguar is the largest cat of the Americas and a formidable predator
Its common name comes from the native name ‘yaguara’, meaning ‘a beast that kills its prey with one bound’. It has a muscular build and strong jaws. This remarkable cat possesses a visually striking coat of large black rosettes, mostly enclosing dark spots, set against golden brown to yellow fur. Melanistic forms are also relatively common, often called ‘black panthers’ in the Americas. Jaguars vary considerably in size in different regions, but genetic studies indicate that there are no subspecies. Jaguars found in the densely forested areas of the Amazon Basin are generally smaller and darker in colour than those found in more open terrain. Jaguars are solitary animals. The female gives birth to a litter size of one to four cubs. Young are dependent on their mother for up to two years. Life span in the wild is not known, but jaguar specialist Alan Rabinowitz estimated that few jaguars in Belize lived more than 11 years. Although the jaguar has been characterised as nocturnal, it is more often active around dawn and dusk. Like most cats, jaguars are opportunistic hunters. Relative to their size, they have the most powerful bite of the ‘big cats’ and are the only big cat to regularly kill by piercing the skull.
Prolifically hunted for its pelt in the 60s and 70s, this practice has declined as a result of anti-fur campaigns although hunting by cattle ranchers is an ongoing problem. Primary threats today come from habitat loss through deforestation, which is having a drastic impact on the jaguar’s prey base. Information credit: Arkive