A feature named ‘The Hunter’s High Road.’ Check back to see an animal that represents the apex of predatory evolution. Carnivores come in a range of shapes and sizes, using a variety of tricks to catch their prey. Some are powerful, some are beautiful. All are deadly.
Big cats are some of the most successful predators on the planet, using their strength, speed and agility to catch prey. One of the most mysterious is the jaguar, whose habitat varies from dense rainforest to open scrubland. They are ambush predators who live a solitary life, feeding on animals ranging from deer to sloths.
The jaguar has the third most powerful bite force of big cats behind tigers and lions. Although they are known to use a deep-throat bite and suffocation technique they also have a unique hunting method. Jaguars use their teeth to pierce the brain by biting through the temporal bones of the skull. This could be a possible adaptation to cracking open turtle shells. When they’ve stalked a target the jaguar attacks from cover and pounces.
Jaguars are known to look similar to leopards, though they are bigger, stockier and heavier. The rosettes of a jaguar are larger, darker and have spots inside them while a leopard has more rosettes. Jaguar males reach maturity at three to four years and females at two. They mate throughout the year and separate once finished. Females provide the parenting, with the gestation period lasting 93-105 days. Mothers give birth of up to four cubs and they will not tolerate the presence of males around the litter for fear of infanticide.
The cat is considered to be endangered to the point of extinction. This is due to loss of habitat and a systematic elimination from northern regions. Ranchers will often kill jaguars who’re seen near their livestock. Conservation efforts are focused on educating ranch owners and promoting ecotourism. Jaguars are an umbrella species, meaning their habitat requirements are broad enough that other species of a smaller range must also be protected. Umbrella species work as ‘mobile links’ in the landscape and the jaguar serves this purpose through being a predator.
The Jaguar Conservation Fund is determined to restore the cat’s habitat and promote awareness. They run a series of projects, such as the Ecology and Conservation initiative in Emas National Park. Team members collect data on the jaguar population by using camera traps and keep a record of them in case anything happens. They also have a donation scheme and run internship programs for anyone who wants to lend a helping hand.
In the words of the JCF it’s important that we “promote the conservation of the jaguar, its natural prey and habitat throughout the species’ geological range, as well as its peaceful coexistence with man.” Jaguars are beautiful animals who deserve our protection and can be admired for their resiliency and strength.