Measuring up to 1.8 meters and weighing in between 90 and 115 kg, the jaguar (Panthera onca) holds its post as the most powerful predator of the Americas. It is found from Mexico to Argentina, sleuthing through a great diversity of habitats that include dense jungles, swampy wetlands, and dry grasslands. For thousands of years, as far as historic and archaeological records show, the jaguar has been a cultural icon in Latin America. Peru has one of the most important jaguar strongholds in the Amazon due to its rich soils, which translate to fruit and plant abundance key for the existence of peccaries and other smaller mammals-- the bulk of the jaguar’s prey.
The jaguar is constantly threatened by habitat loss and degradation, as well as by human conflict. In WCS, our Jaguar Conservation Program works throughout the feline’s entire range to monitor populations and engage in relevant research. In Peru, we work to preserve the habitat where this great predator lives, crucial for its conservation, given that it permits the connectivity and integrity it needs.
10 facts about the jaguar:
- How does one distinguish leopards from jaguars? The jaguar has rosettes with dots inside, which gives it the appearance of eyes spotting its entire body.
- Its jaws are doubly strong than those of the lion’s-- so strong that they can break a turtle shell with one bite.
- Unlike domestic cats, jaguars love water and are very good swimmers.
- In Peru, the jaguar is called “otorongo.” The name “jaguar” comes from the language tupi-guaraní, and means “beast.”
- In captivity, jaguars can live up to 20 years, but its believed that in the wild, they live between 11-12 years.
- No one knows how many jaguars there are in the wild.
- The Aztecs had a high warrior class called “The Jaguar Soldiers.”
- Jaguar cubs are born blind and it takes them 2 years to become independent from their mothers.
- Jaguars are carnivores and their diet can include 87 species of animals.
- Jaguars don’t chase their prey; they secretly stalk them before attacking.
Top photo: Humberto Paz