The number of jaguars left in the world is estimated to be around 173,000 according to the World Wildlife Fund. However, it is hard to come up with an accurate number as the big cat is very elusive. Other experts claim that the actual number is much lower with some wildlife officials estimating that around 64,000 remain.
The IUCN Red List classifies the jaguar as near threatened, meaning they are not considered endangered. However, their habitat is threatened by deforestation and agriculture, resulting in their range shrinking and the population becoming more fragmented.
A bit about the jaguar
The only big cat found in the Americas and the third biggest cat in the world, the jaguar is a compact, heavily built animal. It is a solitary apex predator, noted for its ability to kill its prey with a single powerful bite. Jaguars are most active at twilight and night and are experts at ambushing prey. They are excellent swimmers and adept at climbing trees.
Their fur is typically yellow or tan, but can also be black. The black markings on their coat can make them seem similar to leopards, although they also have an additional black spot on their rosettes. Jaguars live mainly in dense forests and swamps but may also be found in grassland.
Where do jaguars live?
Jaguars can be found throughout Central and South America. Their range extends from northern Argentina and northeastern Brazil up to Mexico. Although this is an area of 8.75 million square kilometers, it is less than half of their historical range. The majority of jaguars live in the Amazon Basin, extending to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela and Guianas. Very few Jaguars are found in the United States, northern Mexico, northern Brazil and southern Argentina.
What threats to jaguars face?
Jaguars face two major threats: loss of habitat and illegal killing. Many forests in South and Central America have been cleared for agriculture and timber. Apart from destroying the animal’s habitat, this has also caused it to become fragmented, resulting in inbreeding and the species becoming extirpated in certain areas.
Jaguars are also killed, either by poachers or ranchers. There has long been a demand for their striking pelts, as well as illegal trade in its teeth and bone products, particularly to China. In addition, ranchers shoot jaguars to prevent big cats from preying on their cattle.
Trade in jaguar parts is banned by CITES while jaguars have national protection in almost all countries that it’s found. Nevertheless, illegal poaching continues. Apart from fighting deforestation, conservation groups are also engaged in efforts to create jaguar corridors that would connect fragmented populations. Programs to compensate ranchers for livestock taken by jaguars as well as promote improved husbandry practices have been implemented to reduce retaliatory killings.