Jaguar

Features

As well as most of the felines it is a solitary animal (except for the mother-cubs set). Generally the adults come together only for courtship and mating (although there have been confirmations of anecdotal cases of socialization) and they often settle in a wide territory and defend it. In the case of the females these territories might superimpose, but the animals tend to avoid each other. The males’ territory covers approximately two times the females’, with an extension that varies depending on the availability of preys and space, and they do not superpose.

They mark their territory by means of vocalizations, scratches on the trees, urine and feces. It is often described as a nocturnal animal, but, more specifically, it is crepuscular (most part of the activity takes part at dawn and at nightfall). Both males and females go hunting.

Habitat and distribution

From the far south of United States down to a great part of Central America and South America, till the north and northeast of Argentina. Rainforests, swamps and seasonally flooded jungles.

Biology

As well as the rest of felines, it is strictly carnivore. It is a solitary and opportunistic hunter and its diet covers more than 80 different species. It prefers big preys, mostly diurnal mammals, like capybaras, tapirs, peccaries, and, occasionally, deer, but it also hunts caimans or even adult anacondas. But almost every small species it can catch may be included among its preys.

The females reach sexual maturity approximately when they are from 12 to 24 months old and males, between 24 and 36 months. It is believed that they mate throughout the whole year in the wild, although the number of births increases during the rainy season, when preys are more abundant. The gestation period lasts between 93 and 105 days; the females give birth to usually two cubs, although the number may vary from 1 to 4. The female does not tolerate the presence of the male after the cubs are born, because of the risk of infant cannibalism, behavior which is also seen among tigers.

Conservation status

Despite the legal protection and the reduced hunting for its fur, jaguars are in increasing danger due to the destruction and the fragmentation of its habitat. This, together with the scarcity of prey, forces the jaguar to approach the cattle ranches in search of food, with the consequence that many of them are murdered at the hands of the human being.

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