Conservation news

How are jaguars different from leopards? Candid Animal Cam is in the Americas

  • Every Tuesday, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Camera traps bring you closer to the secretive natural world and are an important conservation tool to study wildlife. This week we’re meeting the most iconic species of the Americas: the jaguar.

The jaguar is not only an apex predator but it is also deeply rooted in the cultural and natural heritage of the countries where it lives in. This feline ranges from the Mexico-US border in North America, to Argentina in South America. They are the third biggest cat in the world after tigers and lions and like other big cats, the jaguar is capable of roaring and does so to warn territorial and mating competitors away. Jaguars are stalk-and-ambush predators and they are at the top of their food chain, meaning they don’t have any predators in the wild. They eat a wide variety of prey, over 85 species have been reported in their diet. They prefer large prey such as giant anteaters, tapirs, capybaras and deer, but they also prey upon other animals such as wild boars, peccaries and caimans. And unlike many other cats, jaguars are great swimmers; they even ambush their prey in rivers by leaping into the water and catching them.

Jaguars are classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN and its population is rapidly declining. Since the 1880s, they’ve lost more than half their territory. They are losing habitat to agriculture and livestock which can fragment their habitats and leave cats isolated and unable to travel and find mates to breed which decreases their chances of survival. Jaguars are also hunted by ranchers in retaliation for preying on cattle. Poaching is another growing problem for them, even though jaguars are listed on CITES — a global treaty that regulates the cross-border wildlife trade — in Appendix I, which means that all international trade in jaguars or their body parts is prohibited, their pelts, teeth and bones are being illegally traded mainly to China. In order to protect the remaining populations of these animals, countries need to strengthen law enforcement, develop jaguar corridors to connect isolated populations and also work with communities to reduce human-jaguar conflict. Watch the video to learn more about this species!

Special thanks to San Miguelito Jaguar Conservation Ranch, Sean M. McHugh, Panthera and Jeffrey Thompson for sharing this camera trap footage with us!

Review questions for educators

Banner photo of a jaguar in Colombia by Rhett A. Butler

Romi Castagnino is Mongabay’s bilingual writer. Find her on Twitter and Instagram: @romi_castagnino