Top Cat of the New World

The largest cat in the Americas, the jaguar is declining throughout its range and threatened with extinction everywhere outside its last stronghold in Amazonia. Over the last three generations the global jaguar population is thought to have dropped by around 20-25%. This shy and solitary big cat is most at home in dense forest, and its biggest threat comes from habitat loss as its rainforest home is progressively removed to make way for commercial agriculture, subsistence farming and infrastructure development. All these forms of encroachment on jaguar territory are increasing the likelihood of human-wildlife conflict, particularly where livestock farmers are concerned.

Jaguar facts

  • The jaguar is the largest cat species in the Americas.
  • Jaguars have the strongest bite of any cat on the planet.
  • They are opportunistic hunters and prey on a wide variety of species.
  • Jaguars are great swimmers and have been known to feed on caiman.
  • The jaguar is symbolically important in native Mesoamerican culture and religion.
  • Black panthers in South America are the black colour variant of the jaguar.
At a glance
Panthera onca
Near threatened

Family:

Felidae

Order:

Carnivora

Estimated in the wild:

64,000

33 out of 34 jaguar subpopulations are Critically Endangered or Endangered

49%

Percentage by which the jaguar’s historical range is estimated to have shrunk

2

The most common number of cubs in a litter

Conservation Story

The main threat to the jaguar is habitat loss caused by agricultural expansion and logging. Illegal logging can have a particularly detrimental effect, as it not only destroys vital jaguar habitat, but also increases the likelihood of opportunistic hunting of this big cat for its body parts.

There is still demand for jaguar paws, teeth and other products, especially in local markets. Jaguar bone is also starting to be considered a replacement for tiger bone among users of traditional medicine in South America’s growing Asian community.

Agriculture too can pose a problem. Land that adjoins the boundaries of protected areas can attract the unwelcome attention of the jaguar – especially if it used to graze cattle, which represent an easy meal for a hungry big cat. This can lead to human-wildlife conflict as farmers take steps to protect their livestock or resort to revenge killings.

HOW FFI IS HELPING TO SAVE THE JAGUAR

Through our work to protect important forest habitat in countries such as Belize and Ecuador, FFI is helping to preserve the remaining jaguar population.

Habitat protection

By ensuring the protection of vital forest habitat through regular patrols and monitoring, we can help to reduce illegal logging activity. Having a protected area in which these big cats can feed and reproduce is critically important in maintaining jaguar populations.

Human-jaguar conflict prevention

Through our work with local communities and farmers, we can help minimise incidences of human-jaguar conflict and, if needed, compensate farmers for lost livestock to ensure that they do not target jaguars in reprisals.

Population monitoring

Jaguars are apex predators, and their abundance reflects the overall health of the forest. The more ecologically intact the forest, the greater the number of jaguars it can support. Regular patrols also help to reduce illegal hunting of the jaguars, because the presence of rangers acts as a strong deterrent to poachers.

“We estimate that in the Chocó rainforest there are only 30 to 50 jaguars, and 95% of the population has been destroyed… if conservation actions are not taken in the short term the species will become extinct.”

Victor Tacuri, local ranger