The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and the largest in the Americas.
Its present habitat range extends from the southwestern part of the United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south towards Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona and the bootheel of New Mexico, jaguars have largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.
However, despite its importance in ancient Mesoamerican civilization, the jaguar’s predominance is rapidly decreasing in contemporary society. Around 18,000 jaguars were killed for their fur each year from the 1960’s to 1970’s and they are officially listed as an endangered species, with only 15,000 jaguars thought to still be in existence.
However, jaguars still exist in eighteen countries in Latin America and sightings continue to be reported. Crucially, a jaguar was spotted in the central area of Mexico in 2009, making its first appearance in the wild for one hundred years and raising hope that the striking member of the cat family has not disappeared for good.
If you have had enough of scuba diving, and had your turn at the many swimming with whale sharks, or swimming with sea turtles experiences, then perhaps consider taking a jaguar eco-tour or visit a jaguar sanctuary. Recognized as the most majestic of Mexican animals, seeing jaguars up close is an encounter you won’t easily forget.
From its historic roots in Mesoamerican society to its fragile existence in modern day Latin America, the jaguar has remained a respected and valued member of the animal kingdom and continues to be held in high esteem by nature lovers and scientists alike.