Jaguar: Panthera onca Common Name: Jaguar Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Pantherinae Panthera Species: onca Misc: The Jaguar and the Leopard are often confused with one another in zoos. Their coloring and markings are so similar that it is difficult for people to distinguish them. The difference lies in the center of the Jaguars rosettes, because unlike the leopard, the Jaguar has spots inside of its rosettes! The Jag is also a much stockier animal than its cousin, with shorter legs and tail – giving it more of a pit bull type appearance.
Leopard coat pattern
Jaguar coat pattern
The name Jaguar comes from the ancient Indian name “yaguar” which meant “the killer which overcomes its prey in a single bound.”
Size and Appearance: Jags are the largest felines in the Americas. Adult males can reach an overall length of more than 7 feet, and can weigh anywhere from 150 to 200 pounds. As mentioned above, its coat color and markings are very similar to the leopard, with a rich tawny or yellow background with large black rosettes and spots. It has a larger head, more compact body, and much more powerful paws! The Jaguar also occurs with an all black (melanistic) coat, and like the leopard, the spots can still be seen on black individuals. Albino individuals have been reported as well.
Habitat: The Jaguar is commonly found in rain forests, savannahs, and swamps, but at the northern end of its territory it may enter scrub country and even deserts. The Jaguar still has a stronghold in the Amazon basin, but has been nearly wiped out of all drier regions. Wherever it is found, it requires fresh water as the Jaguar is an excellent swimmer. To see Jaguars in the wild, or help them there, check out www.guato.org
Distribution: Once found here in the United States (California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida), this cat was hunted to extinction here in the late 1940s. Today, it is found in Mexico, but swiftly declining and Central America, and the strongest populations being found in the Mato Grosso, Brazil; The Pantanal, bordering Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay; Chiapas State, Mexico; and the Yucatan Peninsula/northern Guatemala/Belize.
Reproduction and Offspring: Jaguars have no defined breeding season and will mate any time of year. After a gestation period of about 100 days, the female will give birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs. Mothers will continue to feed and protect her young until they are about 1 year old, and they will continue to stay with her until they are about 2 years old. They will reach sexual maturity between 2-3 years for females, and 3-4 for males.
In captivity, jags lived over 20 years, as compared to 11 – 12 in the wild.
Social System and Communication: The Jaguar is solitary and terrestrial, although it is an adept tree climber. It marks its territory with urine and tree scrapes, in the same fashion as the other great cats. It has a variety of vocalizations, including, roars, grunts, and meows.
Hunting and Diet: Jaguars will pursue almost any kind of animal prey within its range, with its favorite being the peccary (a type of wild pig) and the capybara (the worlds largest rodent). Other food items are caiman, tapirs, and fish. Jaguars differ from all the other cats in their method of killing. Once they’ve caught their prey they pierce the skulls with their canines, demonstrating the amazing strength of their powerful jaws. They were once presumed to be nocturnal, but recent studies have shown that they are active during the daytime, with high peaks of activity during dawn and dusk. Jaguars are also more energetic than their larger cousins, and are active for 50-60% of a 24 hour period.
Threats: Deforestation rates are high in Latin America and fragmentation of forest habitat isolates jaguar populations so that they are more vulnerable to the predations of man. People compete with jaguars for prey, and jaguars are frequently shot on sight, despite protective legislation. Jaguars are also known to kill cattle, and are killed by ranchers as pest species. The vulnerability of the jaguar to persecution is demonstrated by its disappearance by the mid-1900’s from the south-western US and northern Mexico. Commercial hunting and trapping of jaguars for their pelts has declined drastically since the mid-1970’s, when anti-fur campaigns and CITES controls progressively shut down international markets.
Status: CITES: Appendix I. IUCN: Near Threatened. The jaguar is fully protected at the national level across most of its range, with hunting prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela, and hunting restrictions in place in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. The species also occurs within protected areas in some of its range.
Felid TAG recommendation: Jaguar (Pantherinae Panthera onca). Although perhaps the longest-lived large felid species, the recently approved SSP found the North American population in AZA zoos and most other locations to be aging and virtually untraceable. As this time, only 22 of the 95 U.S. jaguars can be traced back to nature. This population is being managed as an education population because of its relative abundance in many parts of its range. Additional founders are expected to be periodically available for inclusion into the SSP. The target population is 120 individuals.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 292 worldwide, with 95 being in the U.S.
What is Big Cat Rescue doing for the Jaguar? We participated in an AZA sanctioned study by being the only facility to provide tracking information via detailed photos and casts of paw prints from our captive South American Pumas so that they could be discerned from jaguar tracks in Costa Rica. This will help researchers determine local populations and their habits so that land can be protected for their future.
National Geographic aired a wonderful documentary by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz called, In Search of the Jaguar.
Belize Jaguar Project: In January 2015 an enclosure for two displaced wild jaguars, Lady Hill and Mistletoe, in Belize was sponsored in honor of all of the Big Cat Rescue volunteers, interns, and staff. Since then the team at the Belize Zoo has been working through the rainy season to build the enclosure.
The main structure is now complete and includes night houses, swimming pools, and lots of natural habitat for these two jaguars to enjoy. The last step is to roof the enclosure, which they are currently working on. Here are a few photos of the progress.
These two jaguars were nuisance cats who came into very close proximity to where people reside. In order to spare their lives they were trapped and taken to the Belize Zoo which is a sanctuary for native wildlife that can not be released back into the wild. Had these two jaguars not been removed, they would have been terminated by the government.
Meet some of the jaguars who have lived at Big Cat Rescue:
Since the 1960’s it has been considered politically incorrect to call a black cat a black panther. The big black cats are black leopards or black jaguars and are not referred to as black panthers by anyone who knows anything about big cats. Some people claim to have seen black cougars, which are sometimes referred to as Florida Panthers (despite the fact that they are not in the Panthera category) and thus extrapolate the term black panther, but Florida Panthers are always tan.
Black panther may refer to:
Black panther, a big cat (of any species, but most commonly a jaguar or a leopard) whose coloration is entirely black. This may have originated from the Latin name Panthera for the big cats and was probably shortened from Black Panthera to Black Panther.
Black Panther, a member of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary Black nationalist organization in the United States formed during the 1960s.
Black Panther, a member of a group of Israeli Mizrahi Jews inspired by the Black Panther Party in the United States.
Black Panther, the nickname for the British criminal and murderer Donald Neilson.
Black Panther, a comic book superhero in the Marvel Comics universe, and a member of The Avengers.
Black Panther, an underground newspaper.
Black Panther, a well-known Chinese rock band
A song by Mason Jennings from his 2000 album Birds Flying Away
Black Panther, the symbol for the Filipino Special forces, The Scout Rangers
The nickname of the U.S. 761st Tank Battalion, after their unit’s shoulder sleeve insignia.
The Black Panther
The black panther is the common name for a black specimen (a melanistic variant) of any of several species of cats.
Zoologically speaking, the term panther is synonymous with leopard. The genus name Panthera is a taxonomic category that contains all the species of a particular group of felids. In North America, the term panther is commonly used for the puma; in Latin America it is most often used to mean a jaguar. Elsewhere in the world it refers to the leopard (originally individual animals with longer tails were deemed panthers and others were leopards; it is a common misconception that the term panther necessarily refers a melanistic individual).
Melanism is most common in jaguars (Panthera onca) – where it is due to a dominant gene mutation – and leopards (Panthera pardus) – where it is due to a recessive gene mutation. Close examination of one of these black cats will show that the typical markings are still there, and are simply hidden by the surplus of the black pigment melanin. Cats with melanism can co-exist with litter mates that do not have this condition. In cats that hunt mainly at night the condition is not detrimental. White panthers also exist, these being albino or leucistic individuals of the same three species.
It is probable that melanism is a favorable evolutionary mutation with a selective advantage under certain conditions for its possessor, since it is more commonly found in regions of dense forest, where light levels are lower. Melanism can also be linked to beneficial mutations in the immune system.
Black Jaguar cubs. In jaguars, the mutation is dominant hence black jaguars can produce both black and spotted cubs, but spotted jaguars only produce spotted cubs when bred together. In leopards, the mutation is recessive and some spotted leopards can produce black cubs (if both parents carry the gene in hidden form) while black leopards always breed true when mated together. In stuffed mounted specimens, black leopards often fade to a rusty color, but black jaguars fade to chocolate brown. The black jaguar was considered a separate species by indigenous peoples.
In Harmsworth Natural History (1910), WH Hudson writes:
The jaguar is a beautiful creature, the ground-colour of the fur a rich golden-red tan, abundantly marked with black rings, enclosing one or two small spots within. This is the typical colouring, and it varies little in the temperate regions; in the hot region the Indians recognize three strongly marked varieties, which they regard as distinct species – the one described; the smaller jaguar, less aquatic in his habits and marked with spots, not rings; and, thirdly, the black variety. They scout the notion that their terrible “black tiger” is a mere melanic variation, like the black leopard of the Old World and the wild black rabbit. They regard it as wholly distinct, and affirm that it is larger and much more dangerous than the spotted jaguar; that they recognize it by its cry; that it belongs to the terra firma rather than to the water-side; finally, that black pairs with black, and that the cubs are invariably black. Nevertheless, naturalists have been obliged to make it specifically one with Felis onca, the familiar spotted jaguar, since, when stripped of its hide, it is found to be anatomically as much like that beast as the black is like the spotted leopard.
The gene is incompletely dominant. Individuals with two copies of the gene are darker (the black background colour is more dense) than individuals with just one copy whose background colour may appear to be dark charcoal rather than black.
A black jaguar called Diablo has been crossed with a lioness at Bear Creek Sanctuary, Barrie, Canada resulting in a charcoal coloured “black jaglion”. The gene is therefore dominant over normal lion coloration.
A melanistic black leopard, or “black panther.” These are the most common form of black panther in captivity and have been selectively bred for decades as exhibits or exotic pets (this inbreeding for the sake of appearance has adversely affected temperament). They are smaller and more lightly built than jaguars. The spotted pattern is still visible on black leopards, especially from certain angles where the effect is that of printed silk. Skin color is a mixture of blue black gray and purple with rosettes. A black panther (leopard) is able to hunt and kill animals outweighing them by more than 1,350 pounds but this is rare because of competition from tigers and lions.
Black leopards are reported from most densely-forested areas in south-western China, Burma, Assam and Nepal; from Travancore and other parts of southern India and are said to be common in Java and the southern part of the Malay Peninsula where they may be more numerous than spotted leopards. They are less common in tropical Africa, but have been reported from Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia), the forests of Mount Kenya and the Aberdares. One was recorded by Peter Turnbull-Kemp in the equatorial forest of Cameroon.
Adult black panthers (leopards) are more temperamental (nervous or vicious) than their spotted counterparts. It is a myth that their mothers often reject them at a young age because of their colour. In actuality, they are more temperamental because they have been inbred (e.g. brother/sister, father/daughter, mother/son matings) to preserve the coloration. The poor temperament has been bred into the strain as a side-effect of inbreeding. It is this poor temperament that leads to problems of maternal care in captivity as the proximity of humans stresses the mother. According to Funk And Wagnalls’ Wildlife Encyclopedia, black leopards are less fertile than normal leopards having average litters of 1.8, compared to 2.1. This may be due to their high-strung nature.
In the early 1980s, Glasgow Zoo, Scotland acquired a 10 year old black leopard from Dublin Zoo, Ireland. She was exhibited for several years before moving to Madrid Zoo, Spain. This leopard had a uniformly black coat profusely sprinkled with white hairs as though draped with spider webs. She was therefore nicknamed the Cobweb Panther. The condition appeared to be vitiligo and as she aged, the white became more extensive. Since then, other Cobweb Panthers have been reported and photographed in zoos.
Hear our roars, chuffs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
There are no authenticated cases of truly melanistic pumas. Black pumas have been reported in Kentucky, one of which had a paler belly. There have also been reports of glossy black pumas from Kansas and eastern Nebraska. These are known as the North American Black Panther (NABP). None have ever been photographed or shot in the wild, and none have been bred. There is wide concensus among breeders and biologists that the animal does not exist and is a cryptid. Sightings are current attributed to mistaken species identification by non feline experts, and memetic exaggeration of size.
In his “Histoire Naturelle” (1749), Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, wrote of the “Black Cougar”: “M. de la Borde, King’s physician at Cayenne, informs me, that in the [South American] Continent there are three species of rapacious animals; that the first is the jaguar, which is called the tiger; that the second is the couguar [sic], called the red tiger, on account of the uniform redness of his hair; that the jaguar is of the size of a large bull-dog, and weighs about 200 pounds (90 kg); that the couguar is smaller, less dangerous, and not so frequent in the neighborhood of Cayenne as the jaguar; and that both these animals take six years in acquiring their full growth. He adds, that there is a third species in these countries, called the black tiger, of which we have given a figure under the appellation of the black couguar.”
“The head,” says M. de la Borde, “is pretty similar to that of the common couguar; but the animal has long black hair, and likewise a long tail, with strong whiskers. He weighs not much above forty pounds. The female brings forth her young in the hollows of old trees.” This black couguar is most likely a margay or ocelot, which are under forty pounds, live in trees, and do occur in a melanistic phase.
Another description of a black cougar was provided by Mr Pennant: “Black tiger, or cat, with the head black, sides, fore part of the legs, and the tail, covered with short and very glossy hairs, of a dusky colour, sometimes spotted with black, but generally plain: Upper lips white: At the corner of the mouth a black spot: Long hairs above each eye, and long whiskers on the upper lip: Lower lip, throat, belly, and the inside of the legs, whitish, or very pale ash-colour: Paws white: Ears pointed: Grows to the size of a heifer of a year old: Has vast strength in its limbs.– Inhabits Brasil and Guiana: Is a cruel and fierce beast; much dreaded by the Indians; but happily is a scarce species;” (Pennant’s Synops. of quad., p 180). According to his translator Smellie (1781), the description was taken from two black cougars exhibited in London some years previously.
In the US, the most likely explanation for black puma sightings is the jaguarundi, a cat very similar genetically to the puma, which grows around 30″ of body and 20″ of tail. Their coat goes through a reddish-brown phase and a dark grey phase. While their acknowledged natural range ends in southern Texas, a small breeding population was introduced to Florida in the 1940’s, and there are rumors of people breeding them as pets there as well. Jaguarundis hunting territory can extend to 100km wide for males, and it’s quite possible that very small populations which rarely venture out of deep forests are responsible for many or most of the sightings. While they are significantly smaller than a puma, differently colored, and much lower to the ground (many note a resemblance to the weasel), a little memory bias combined with their secretive nature could explain many of the sightings in the southeastern US.
After that, the next most likely are black jaguars, who are believed to have ranged North America in historical memory. Melanistic jaguars aren’t common in nature, and more importantly, jaguars themselves were hunted to near extinction in the ’60’s; However, while they do not look exactly like pumas, but they have the requisite size, and it’s conceivable that there could be, for example, a breeding population hidden in the Louisiana bayou. The jaguar has had several photographically confirmed and many unconfirmed sightings in Arizona, New Mexico, and southwest Texas, but not outside that region.
That is the lie that animal abusers tell everyone to try and change the subject from protecting exotic cats to a message of mere competition.
They trot out their modified version of our 20 year plan to back up their ridiculous claims, but they leave out the most important part of the plan, which is that there no longer be big cats suffering in captivity, and thus no longer a need for sanctuaries, including Big Cat Rescue’s sanctuary.
As the public becomes better educated about why it is so wrong to breed wild cats for life in cages, they will cease to support industries that breed them as pay to play props, for circuses and other abusive purposes. There will temporarily be an increased need for real sanctuaries, which are those who meet the following standards.
1. Real sanctuaries do not breed exotic cats for life in cages.
2. Real sanctuaries do not buy wild cats.
3. Real sanctuaries do not sell their wildlife.
4. Real sanctuaries do not let the public, nor their staff or volunteers handle the big cats, other than for veterinary purposes.
5. Real sanctuaries do not endanger the public and the big cats by taking them off site for exhibition.
Big Cat Rescue LOVES real sanctuaries and helps them by:
1. Providing guidance on best practices to help the sanctuary qualify for and obtain accreditation through the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.
2. Hosting workshops and conferences for those who want to do the right thing for wild animals.
3. Training volunteers and international interns in understanding that each animal is an individual who is to be respected and treated with dignity.
4. Sending work groups of our own volunteers out to help after disasters and when other sanctuaries are short handed.
5. Sharing the secrets of our success with those who demonstrate clearly that they are putting the animals first.
Those who exploit wild animals for their own gain hate us because they don’t want the public to know that:
1. There is no reason to breed big cats in cages, as none of them in private hands can ever be set free.
2. There is no captive breeding program that benefits conservation, other than AZA administered SSP programs.
3. Paying to play with a cub or see one on display actually harms conservation efforts.
4. Tigers could disappear from the wild because of the smoke screen caused by their legal breeding of generic tigers.
5. A ban on private possession is the first step toward saving tigers in the wild.
Exploiters claim that if the Big Cats & Public Safety Act were to pass that they would be put out of business and wouldn’t be able to help “rescue” lions, tigers, leopards, ligers and other exotic cats, but that isn’t true. Big Cat Rescue is one of the most successful sanctuaries in the world and we do it by being open, honest and treating the cats with kindness and respect. We want sanctuaries to thrive, and they can do that if they employ the same attitudes and behaviors that we have in being a real sanctuary.
Any real sanctuary, who is doing their work for the animals and not their own sense of satisfaction, will share our goal of a world where all wild cats live free.
Genie the Sandcat is rushed to the vet when her keepers note that she is acting weird.
Genie Sandcat was sedated in a glass box used for domestic cats.
This was to make sedation easier on her since she is only 3.3 pounds and 14 years old.
Dr. Wynn keeps a close eye on her vitals.
The monitors are just all over the place, so she has to rely on feel, sound and instincts.
For such an old and tiny cat, Genie Sandcat has some fearsome teeth!
The tiniest mask straps are too big, so Carole holds the gas mask in place.
Sandcats are the softest of the exotic cat species.
No spinal issues and her lungs don’t look terrible, but she has a case of bronchitis.
This is good news, because Genie Sandcat is given a long lasting antibiotic shot and has a good chance at recovery.
Dr. Wynn gives her fluids, steroids and antibiotics to help tiny little Genie fight off her symptoms.
Genie Sandcat’s paw is the size of the tip of Jamie Veronica’s finger.
Sandcat paws are fully furred on the bottom for running on desert sands.
Violations at Big Cat Facilities 2011-2014
The USDA site doesn’t work most of the time and when it does it is so slow that most browsers will time out and quit before you can download the information you are looking for. This information is current as of Oct. 3, 2014.
Demand that Walton County Enforce Florida Anti-Cruelty Law in Brutal Cat Shooting
On Aug. 25, a Walton County, Fla., resident fatally shot MommaCat, one of the beloved feral cats a Freeport couple cares for. Despite repeated requests from Alley Cat Allies, the Walton County Sheriff’s Department has not confirmed whether they have informed the man who brutally shot MommaCat that shooting cats is against the law. The Florida State Anti-Cruelty Law makes it clear that shooting a cat is illegal.
This is where you come in. We need as many Floridians as possible to demand that Walton County tell the man who killed MommaCat that shooting cats is illegal and charge him with animal cruelty. Please take action now.
The neighbor shot MommaCat twice as one of the caregivers ran toward him begging him to stop. According to police reports, the responding officer asked the shooter “to give the [caregivers] some time to catch the cats before shooting others” and explained to the complainants that “no criminal act was noted.” This response is unacceptable—shooting cats is clearly illegal under Florida’s Anti-Cruelty Law.
Tibetan Monasteries Serve as Critical Allies for Snow Leopards
New York, NY – A Panthera co-authored study published last week confirms the critical role of Tibetan-Buddhist monasteries in the fight to conserve the endangered snow leopard.
Led by Dr. Li Juan of Peking University, the Panthera-supported study confirms that over 300 monasteries inhabit the same sky-high region as the snow leopards of the Tibetan Plateau, and protect more snow leopard habitat than local nature reserves. The study, Role of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries in Snow Leopard Conservation, was co-authored by Panthera’s Dr. George Schaller and Dr. Tom McCarthy, the leading Chinese conservation NGO Shan Shui and the Snow Leopard Trust. It showed that nearly half of the monasteries are found in snow leopard habitat, while 90% exist within 5 km of snow leopard range in the Plateau’s Sanjiangyuan region.
Monks on the Tibetan Plateau serve as de facto wildlife guardians. Tibetan Buddhism considers the snow leopard and its habitats strictly sacred, and the monks patrol wild landscapes surrounding monasteries to enforce strict edicts against killing wildlife. Senior monks, including the Rinpoche and Khenpos, are important influencers in their communities, positively impacting followers’ attitudes and behavior towards wildlife.The study shows that Tibetan Buddhism is practiced across an extraordinary 80% of snow leopard range, and so monastery-based snow leopard conservation could apply over a much broader area than the Tibetan Plateau.
Panthera’s Vice President, Dr. George Schaller, explained, “Buddhism has as a basic tenet the love, respect, and compassion for all living beings. This report illuminates how science and the spiritual values of Tibetan Buddhism can combine their visions and wisdom to help protect China’s natural heritage. Such an approach to environmental conservation needs to be emulated by all the world’s faiths.”
Co-author and Director of Shan Shui, Dr. Lu Zhi, shared, “With Buddhist education, Tibetan people have lived in harmony with nature for thousands of years. Now like everywhere else, the traditional culture on the Plateau is facing the challenge of modernization. Conservationists should work closer with social institutions, integrating scientific methodologies with cultural approaches for better solutions.”
Dr. Tom McCarthy (Panthera) and Yin Hang (Shan Shui) discuss snow leopard monitoring methods with Buddhist monks using GPS and other technology.
Between 3,500-7,000 snow leopards currently remain in 12 Asian countries, with an estimated 60% of their population and habitat occurring in China. Panthera, Shan Shui and the Snow Leopard Trust have been partnering with four Tibetan-Buddhist monasteries in the Yushu Prefecture of Qinghai Province since 2009. The program focuses on mitigating human-snow leopard conflict and training monks to monitor and protect wildlife. It also supports monasteries in teaching tens of thousands of people about the conservation value of snow leopards through festivals and educational programs. In three years there have been no reports of snow leopards being killed in the study area
Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program Executive Director, Dr. Tom McCarthy, explained, “Snow leopards share their mountain habitat with poor herding families whose lives are dependent on livestock. When a snow leopard kills a sheep, goat, yak or even a young camel, it is a huge economic loss to the herder. Thanks to this unique program, we now have highly-respected community leaders mitigating conflict and acting as spokespeople for snow leopards by weaving the message of conservation with their religious convictions, and paving the road for the snow leopard’s future on the Tibetan Plateau and beyond.”
This study was published in Conservation Biology via Wiley Online Library. Earlier this week, the report was featured in Wiley’s bi-weekly News Round-Up, composed of the most newsworthy research reports published across the Library’s 1,500 peer-reviewed journals.