The jaguar is the largest carnivore in Latin America, encompassing 18 countries from Mexico to Argentina. As a “Near Threatened” species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the jaguar is extinct in El Salvador and Uruguay, and facing pressure in remaining range countries. Jaguars have experienced over 50% loss in its natural range in addition to population decline as a result of conflict with communities, loss and fragmentation of habitat, overhunting of the jaguar’s prey by people and poaching.
Today, jaguar conservation transcends the intent of safeguarding a single species. Successful conservation of this keystone species maintains forests, carbon stocks, biodiversity, watersheds as well as national and cultural heritage. These efforts not only protect all wildlife across the jaguar landscape but help diversify economic opportunities of local communities and contribute to global climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Protecting the jaguar requires governments, NGOs and local communities to work in partnership to foster successful landscape level coordination, improve protected area management, develop innovative finance mechanisms for conservation and dedicate resources to mitigate the species’ greatest threats. This will require visionary planning and management of the landscape in the development and economic sectors in Latin America, such as agriculture, forestry and infrastructure, to maintain biodiversity, while achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The role of the jaguar as a flagship species for sustainable development and biodiversity conservation will be recognized and celebrated globally on International Jaguar Day.
International Jaguar Day
The decision to celebrate International Jaguar Day reflects a growing recognition of the importance of the jaguar as an icon for sustainable development in the Americas, and the health of our planet. It also represents the collective voice of jaguar range countries, in collaboration with national and international partners, to draw attention to the need to conserve jaguar corridors and their habitats as part of broader efforts to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In March 2018 representatives from 14 range countries gathered in New York at United Nations’ Headquarters for the Jaguar 2030 Forum. This Forum resulted in the creation of the Jaguar 2030 Statement which outlined a wide range of internationally collaborative jaguar conservation initiatives, including the proposal to create an International Jaguar Day. Many range countries are also observing National Jaguar Day celebrations including Brazil, which has recognized the jaguar as its symbol for biodiversity.
Among the many voices that joined in this call for a Jaguar Day, was that of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, co-founder and former CEO and Chief Scientist for Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization. Known with respect and admiration as the “Jaguar Man” and the “Indiana Jones of Wildlife Protection”, Alan dedicated his life to the study and protection of jaguars and other big cats.
The fact that jaguars have been more resilient and in many ways, more lucky in their survival than other big cats, is EXACTLY why we should focus our attention on them.
Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Panthera Co-Founder
© Staffan Widstrand/WWF
Jaguars (Panthera onca) are the only member of the Panthera family to be found in the Americas.
The jaguar has been identified as one species across its entire range, making the connection and protection of its habitat critical for the species’ genetic diversity.
The species faces major threats from habitat loss, poaching, overhunting of its prey by people, and human-jaguar conflict.
Jaguars have an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years and can measure up to 8ft or 270cm in length.
Jaguars are often mistaken for leopards, but can be differentiated due to the spots within the rosettes on their coats.
While many cats avoid water, jaguars are great swimmers, and have even been known to swim the Panama Canal.
As the third largest cat in the world, jaguars have shorter tails but more muscular bodies.
Jaguars consume a diet of meat and fish, and their prey includes caimans!