Jaguar: Big cats of the rain forest
the largest of South America's big cats. These beautiful
and powerful beasts were prominent in ancient Native American
cultures. The name jaguar is derived from the Native American
word yaguar, which means "he who kills with one leap."
they look a lot like leopards, there are ways to tell
them apart. Jaguars are stockier and heavier, with shorter,
thicker tails. They have dark spots on their backs, called
rosettes, with an irregular broken border and often a spot in
the center. If you look closely at the Leopards rosettes, you
will that there is no spot in the center of the rosette.
jaguars have tawny-colored fur with black rosettes, but some
have black-on-black, or melanistic, coloration. Usually the ones
that are found in darker rain forest areas are black.
they black panthers? No, there is no such animal! “Panther” is
just an old general term that comes from the Panthera animal grouping name, and is sometimes used to describe
leopards, jaguars, and pumas.
Jaguars stalk and ambush their ground-dwelling prey at night,
instead of chasing it like cheetahs and lions do. They can run
pretty quickly, but do not rely on this skill. Their large jaw
muscles allow them to kill their prey by piercing the skull with
their sharp teeth. This allows them to eat spectacled caimans
and hard-shelled reptiles like turtles and tortoises.
Researchers have counted over 85 species in their diet. With
and less wild prey available, they have started
feeding on livestock. Ranchers often trap and poison them in
hopes of reducing the amount of livestock they lose.
Deforestation due to logging, mining, and farming, which breaks
up their habitat into fragments, leaving less food and fewer
mates are also great threats to their survival.
They once lived throughout the Americas, from northern
Arizona to sounthern Argentina. But hunting and forest clearing
has reduced their numbers and forced them out of their habitat
into interaction with man. Belize has one of the healthiest populations in Central America, and is protected from hunting
throughout Belize. They are also found
throughout Belize in the
lowland forests and along the coasts. They once roamed from the
southern tip of that continent north to the region surrounding
the U.S.-Mexico border. With very few sighting ever in the US in
the last 50 years. Today significant numbers are found only in remote regions of South and Central
America—particularly in the Amazon basin.
Like Tigers and Leopards, Jaguars
are good swimmers and seldom avoid water. Rivers provide prey in
the form of fish, turtles, and caimans—small, alligator like
animals. Jaguars also eat larger animals such as deer,
peccaries, capybaras, and tapirs. They sometimes climb trees to
prepare an ambush, killing their prey with one powerful bite.
Jaguars hunt mainly on the ground and mainly at night. Its food
consists of everything from mice to birds to tapir. Its favorite
food in Belize is probably the warrie, which lives in abundance
throughout the Jaguars habitat.