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Panthera onca 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Carnivora Felidae

Scientific Name: Panthera onca
Species Authority: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common Name(s):
English Jaguar
Spanish Tigre Real, Tigre Americano, Otorongo, Yaguar, Yaguarete
Felis onca Linnaeus, 1758
Taxonomic Notes: Although eight subspecies have been recognized (Seymour 1989), genetic (Eizirik et al. 2001, Ruiz-Garcia et al. 2006) and morphological (Larson 1997) analysis finds no support for the existence of discrete subspecies. Rather, variation is clinal - the greatest differences are found between Jaguars at the latitudinal extremes of their range. While not elevating the regional differences to the subspecies level, Eizirk et al. (2001) found evidence for four incompletely isolated phylogeographic groups: Mexico + Guatemala, southern Central America, northern South America, and South America south of the Amazon river. Similarly, Ruiz-Garcia et al. (2006) found that the Andes mountains incompletely isolates Jaguar populations in Colombia.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor(s): Caso, A., Lopez-Gonzalez, C., Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C.
Reviewer(s): Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)
Jaguar extent of occurrence was estimated at 8.75 million km², and probability of long-term survival was estimated as high for over 6 million km² (Sanderson et al., 2002). Much of the jaguar's remaining habitat is the rainforest of the Amazon basin, which is of relatively low suitability (Torres et al. 2007). The jaguar is still an abundant species, but is threatened by habitat loss and persecution. Due to loss of habitat, poaching of prey and fragmentation of populations across portions of the range, this species is considered to be Near Threatened. If threats continue at the current rate the species will likely qualify for VU A2cd or A3cd in the near future.
Previously published Red List assessments:
  • 2002 – Near Threatened (NT)
  • 1996 – Lower Risk/near threatened (LR/nt)
  • 1990 – Vulnerable (V)
  • 1988 – Vulnerable (V)
  • 1986 – Vulnerable (V)
  • 1982 – Vulnerable (V)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The jaguar is the largest cat of the Americas, and the only living representative of the genus Panthera found in the New World (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Historically it ranged from the southwestern US (where there are still some vagrants close to the Mexican border) through the Amazon basin to the Rio Negro in Argentina. Its extent of occurrence (EOO) is estimated at 8.75 million km², with its stronghold the rainforest of the Amazon basin, which comprises 88% of its EOO. However, ecological models indicate that much of the Amazon is of low suitability for the jaguar, compared with the Pantanal, Paraguayan Chaco, and Caatinga (Torres et al. 2007). The Jaguar has been virtually eliminated from much of the drier northern parts of its range, as well as northern Brazil, the pampas scrub grasslands of Argentina and throughout Uruguay. It is now estimated to occupy only about 46% of its historic range (Sanderson et al. 2002). Populations in Colombia are divided by the Andes (Ruiz-Garcia et al. 2006).

Sanderson et al. (2002) presented a group exercise to define the most important areas for conservation of viable jaguar populations (Jaguar Conservation Units or JCUs). These 51 areas add up to 1.29 million km², or 13% of jaguar range.
Countries occurrence:
Argentina; Belize; Bolivia, Plurinational States of; Brazil; Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guatemala; Guyana; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Paraguay; Peru; Suriname; United States; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Regionally extinct:
El Salvador; Uruguay
Additional data:
Upper elevation limit (metres):3000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Sanderson et al. (2002) found that 70% of estimated jaguar range (over 6 million km²) was considered to have a high probability for survival. Most of this area consists of the Amazon basin rainforest, and adjoining areas of the Pantanal and Gran Chaco. However, while the latter two were found by ecological models to be highly suitable for jaguars, the Amazon was found to be of low suitability (Torres et al. 2007). Jaguar densities in the Brazilian Pantanal are estimated at 6.6-6.7 adults per 100 km² (Soisalo and Cavalcanti 2006), and in the Bolivian Gran Chaco 2.2–5 per 100 km² (Maffei et al. 2004). In the Amazon basin in Colombia, jaguar density was estimated at 4.5/100 km² in Amacayacu National Park and 2.5/100 km² in unprotected areas (Payan 2008). In Madidi National Park in the Bolivian Amazon, density was estimated at 2.8/100 km² (Silver et al. 2004).

Other high probability areas for long-term jaguar persistence include tropical moist lowland forest in Central America: the Selva Maya of Guatemla, Mexico and Belize; and a narrow strip of the Choco-Darien of Panama and Colombia to northern Honduras. Densities in the Belizean Selva Maya rainforest were estimated at 7.5-8.8/100 km² (Silver et al. 2004). The Talamanca Mountains of Costa Rica and Panama also host a populations, but the long term persistence is uncertain (Gonzalez-Maya et al. 2007).

Eighteen percent of jaguar range (1.6 million km²) was estimated to have medium probability of long-term survival. These areas are generally adjacent to high-probability areas and include a large portion of the northern Cerrado, most of the Venezuelan and Colombian llanos, and the northern part of Colombia on the Caribbean coast. In Central America and Mexico, medium-probability areas include the highlands of Costa Rica and Panama, southern Mexico, and the two eastern mountain ranges of Mexico, Sierra de Taumalipas and the Sierra Madre Oriental.

The remainder of jaguar range was classified as low probability for jaguar survival, and of most urgent conservation concern. These areas include the Atlantic Tropical Forest and Cerrado of Brazil; parts of the Chaco in northern Argentina; the Gran Sabana of northern Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana; parts of the coastal dry forest in Venezuela; and the remainder of the range in Central America and Mexico.

Some of the most important areas for jaguar conservation (Jaguar Conservation Units) fell within parts of jaguar range where probability for long-term survival was considered low, and so represent the most endangered jaguar populations. These include the Atlantic Forests of Brazil, northern Argentina, central Honduras, and the Osa peninsula of Costa Rica (Sanderson et al. 2002). The Atlantic Forest subpopulation in Brazil has been estimated at 200+/- 80 adults (Leite et al. 2002). Jaguar populations in the Chaco region of northern Argentina and Brazil, and the Brazilian Caatinga, are low-density and highly threatened by livestock ranching and persecution (Altrichter et al. 2006, T. de Oliveira pers. comm. 2008).
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:The species is strongly associated with the presence of water. Habitats range from rainforest to seasonally flooded swamp areas, pampas grassland, thorn scrub woodland, and dry deciduous forest (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Belize, jaguars are reportedly more abundant in lowland areas of relatively dense forest cover with permanent water sources than in open, seasonally dry forests. Although jaguars have been reported from elevations as high as 3,000 m (Brown and Lopez Gonzalez 2001), they typically avoid montane forest, and have not been found in the high plateau of central Mexico or above 2,700 m in the Andes. Jaguars take a wide variety of prey species but large-sized ungulates are preferred when available (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

A 13 year old wild female was found with cub (Brown and Lopez-Gonzalez 2001).

Density estimates ranged from 1.7-4 adults per 100 km² in studies in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Mexico summarized by Sunquist and Sunqujist (2002). Density estimates by Silver et al. (2004) from five different study sites ranged from 2.4-8.8 adults per 100 km², with the highest densitiy found in Belize's Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve (rainforest), a density similar to the 6-8 per 100 km² found by Rabinowitz and Nottingham (1986). That study found home ranges of females of 10 km², overlaped by male home ranges which varied from 28-40 km² and also overlapped extensively. In other areas jaguar home ranges have been over 1,000 km² (T. de Oliveira pers. comm. 2008).

Soisalo and Cavalcanti (2006) used GPS-telemetry to check density estimates derived from a common camera trap methodology in the Brazilian Pantanal, and cautioned that the method may over-estimate population size. Telemetry data indicated a density of 6.6-6.7 adult jaguars per 100 km², while densities derived from Maximum Distance Moved (MMDM) extrapolations from camera trap captures were higher at 10.3-11.7/100 km².

Jaguar densities in the Paraguayan Gran Chaco are 2.27–5.37 per 100 km² (Cullen Jr. et al. in submission), and in the Colombian Amazon, 4.5/100 km² in Amacayacu National Park and 2.5/100 km² in unprotected areas (Payan 2008). In Brazil, densities are 2 per 100 km² in the savannas of the Cerrado, 3.5/100 km² in the semiarid scrub of the Caatinga, and 2.2/100 km² in the Atlantic Forest (Silveira 2004, in litt. To T. de Oliveira 2008).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Deforestation rates are high in Latin America and fragmentation of forest habitat isolates jaguar populations so that they are more vulnerable to human persecution (Nowell and Jackson 1996). People compete with jaguars for prey, and jaguars are frequently shot on sight, despite protective legislation (Nowell and Jackson 1996). An estimated 27% of jaguar range has a depleted wild prey base (WCS 2008). Jaguars are also known to kill cattle, and are killed by ranchers as pest species. The vulnerability of the jaguar to persecution is demonstrated by its disappearance by the mid-1900's from the south-western US.

Commercial hunting and trapping of jaguars for their pelts has declined drastically since the mid-1970's, when anti-fur campaigns and CITES controls progressively shut down international markets (Nowell and Jackson 1996). However, although hunting has decreased there is still demand for jaguar paws, teeth and other products.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Included on CITES Appendix I. The jaguar is fully protected at the national level across most of its range, with hunting prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States, and Venezuela, and hunting restrictions in place in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

With habitat fragmentation a major threat, and taxonomic research suggesting little significant differences among jaguar populations, an ambitious program has been launched to conserve a continuous north to south habitat corridor through the species range (Rabinowitz 2007).

Addressing livestock management and problem animal issues is a high priority for conservation effort in many jaguar range countries.

Citation: Caso, A., Lopez-Gonzalez, C., Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C. 2008. Panthera onca. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T15953A5327466. . Downloaded on 23 July 2016.
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