The jaguar is the largest wild cat in the Western Hemisphere. Sign up for updates and to learn how you can help protect jaguars.
Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas, and the third largest cat in the world (after lions and tigers). They exist in 18 countries, from Mexico to Argentina.
The jaguar is the most aquatic of all seven big cat species. They can thrive in a variety of wet habitats including flooded forests and the Brazilian Pantanal wetlands.
Jaguars have a special spiritual or symbolic significance to many indigenous cultures in the Americas. In Ecuador, Waoranis believe Jaguars have a paternal role watching out for other species. In the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, indigenous communities believe that jaguars can travel both in the physical and spiritual world, using sacred mountains as portals.
Jaguars are solitary animals. They typically travel alone, with males and females coming together only to mate. Female jaguars will have one or two cubs at a time but can have up to four.
Jaguars may look similar to leopards, but only jaguars roam Latin America. They can also be distinguished from each other by their rosettes on their coats. Jaguar rosettes have spots inside of them, while leopard rosettes don’t.
“Black panther” is not a separate species of big cat. Rather, it is a term given to specific cats that have dark coloring, called melanism. Both jaguars and leopards (as well as many other smaller wild cat species) can exhibit this melanism.
The jaguar is considered "Near Threatened," though its status is in review and may be elevated to "Vulnerable" in the next year.
State of the Jaguar
Jaguars exist in 18 countries in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina. Despite this broad range, jaguars have been eradicated from 40 percent of their historic range and are extinct in Uruguay and El Salvador. While the rare individual has been spotted in the US, there has not been evidence of a breeding population in the US in more than 50 years.
The jaguar is listed as "Near Threatened" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, though its status is in review and may be elevated to "Vulnerable" in the next year.
The species is threatened by loss and fragmentation of jaguar habitat, conflict with local people due to the real or perceived threat posed to livestock, and overhunting of the jaguar’s prey by local people.
"The fact that jaguars have been more resilient and, in many ways, more lucky in their survival than other big cats is EXACTLY why we should focus our attention and conservation efforts on them. This could be the world’s greatest success story for large carnivore conservation and show how big predators such as these can indeed live with humans.” - Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Panthera Co-Founder, 1953-2018
Jaguars have been eradicated from 40% of their historic range. As people develop land for agriculture and other uses, jaguar habitats are lost or fragmented, isolating populations and jeopardizing the genetic integrity of the species.
The jaguar is unique in that it exists as a single species -- with no subspecies -- from Mexico to Argentina; no other large, wide-ranging carnivore in the world maintains this genetic continuity throughout its range.
But explosive growth in Latin America threatens to change that. Between 1990 and 2010, for example, Guatemala lost over 25 percent of its natural forest, or 1,213,000 hectares, due to economic developments, including agriculture and resource extraction.
While jaguars range across a six million km2 area, their numbers are declining and their movement is increasingly restricted by human encroachment into vital habitats and the jaguar’s genetic corridors.
This dramatic habitat loss and fragmentation forces jaguars into closer contact with humans, fueling human-jaguar conflict and contributing to the jaguar’s loss of wild prey. In human-jaguar conflict, ranchers sometimes kill jaguars in retaliation for livestock predation or because of the perceived threat jaguars pose to their herds and livelihoods.
Additionally, the overhunting by humans of the jaguar’s natural prey contributes to population declines and forces jaguars to prey on domestic animals, exacerbating a vicious cycle of conflict.
How Panthera Is Helping
Panthera has developed the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, the only conservation program that seeks to protect jaguars across their entire six million km2 range. In partnership with governments, corporations, and local communities, Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is working to preserve the genetic integrity of the jaguar by connecting and protecting core jaguar populations in human landscapes from northern Mexico to Argentina.
This is built on a multi-dimensional process. Country by country, Panthera’s scientists begin by mapping the jaguar’s presence and the corridors through which they live and move. A corridor might include a cattle ranch, a canal development, a citrus plantation, or someone’s backyard. Using these data, Panthera partners with governments and corporations to support land developments that are both economically profitable and ecologically sustainable, allowing safe passage for jaguars and other wildlife.
See jaguar conservation by country
Our scientists work to mitigate human-jaguar conflict surrounding livestock predation by training ranchers in anti-predator husbandry techniques, such as building predator-proof enclosures. Panthera’s field teams also educate local communities about overhunting of jaguar prey species, which encourages livestock predation.
Panthera is currently leading or supporting efforts in eleven of the 18 jaguar range states, including Belize, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Suriname.