Jaguars are abundant across their range but are increasingly threatened by habitat loss and hunting. Forest destruction in Latin America is a major concern for the long-term survival of this species. They are also killed by people because they compete for the same food, which includes domestic cattle. The market for jaguar fur has declined thanks to anti-fur campaigns, but poaching is still a problem.
Jaguars are the third-largest ‘big cats’, behind lions and tigers. They have strong, muscular bodies for stalking and ambushing prey and moving through dense forests. Their power and majesty was respected by Native American people, and they were important in the art and symbolism of Mayan, Andean and Olmec cultures.
A fur coat with yellow and black spotted rosettes provide Jaguars with good camouflage, since the spots break up their body shape and hide them in the dappled light of the forest. The underside of their bodies is white. There is variation across the species, with northern individuals tending to be paler and smaller in size than their southern counterparts. Some Jaguars are naturally black.
Because Jaguars are so strong, they are able to bring down prey many times larger than themselves. They use a method unique among cats to kill prey; their large teeth and great jaws enable them to penetrate the skull of the animal and puncture its brain.
Jaguars live solitary lives, seeking out other individuals only when breeding. Females give birth to 2–4 blind, helpless cubs, and defend and rear them for about six months. The young remain with their mother for up to two years before leaving to find their own territory. Jaguars live for 12–15 years in the wild.