A recent video captured jointly by two conservation organisations points towards a possible rejuvenation of jaguars in the US. Affectionately known as El Jefe, the big cat was shown prowling through Arizona’s Santa Rita mountains. That he’s been seen alive and well is a step in the right direction towards the protection of such a beautiful species.
Jaguars used to be common, ranging from California to as far east as Texas. However, a removal of large predators began in the 1900s to make the American West safer for livestock and the Federal Bureau of Biological Survey hired trappers to kill jaguars and other carnivores. For decades afterwards the only confirmed jaguars in Arizona were dead ones. The last known jaguar in the US was a female shot in 1973 by a hunter who mistook her for a bobcat.
El Jefe’s survival is promising. He’s been known in the area for over three years and for a time he was being tracked by scientists from the University of Arizona using camera traps. Funding dried up and the only organisation looking out for the big cat at the moment is Conservation CATalyst, a group who jointly captured the video.
Due to a lack of study no one knows how important Arizona is to the future of jaguars in the US, but every inch of land matters so they can roam free. The biggest threat to jaguars are loss of habitat and retaliation for the loss of livestock. A more localised threat to El Jefe is the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rica mountains. The mine would lead to a destruction of his habitat and due to opposition from conservationists the US Fish and Wildlife Service is set to decide whether the mine will be built.
Jaguars are among the most beautiful and enchanting of the big cats. Protecting them is important because the world will be a duller place without them.