Endangered Animals and Plants

Panthera onca


The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas. As a top-level carnivore, the big cat helps prevent overgrazing of vegetation by keeping its prey populations in balance. Yet today, jaguars have been almost completely eliminated from the United States. At best, only an estimated 15,000 jaguars remain in the wild. Bi-national conservation efforts have been successful at protecting a small population of 80 to 120 cats in the remote mountains of Sonora, Mexico bordering Arizona. The jaguar is endangered because it is hunted for its fur, and farmers kill the jaguar because it killed their cattle.

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Facts on Jaguars

Jaguars are the largest of South America's big cats. They once roamed from the southern tip of that continent north to the region surrounding the U.S.-Mexico border. Today significant numbers of jaguars are found only in remote regions of South and Central America—particularly in the Amazon Basin. Unlike many other cats, jaguars do not avoid water; in fact, they are quite good swimmers. Rivers provide prey in the form of fish, turtles, or caimans—small, alligatorlike animals. Jaguars also eat larger animals such as deer, peccaries, capybaras, and tapirs. They sometimes climb trees to prepare an ambush, killing their prey with one powerful bite.