The largest and strongest species of cat in America is the jaguar.
The jaguar is tan or yellow with black rosettes and dots inside. They can grow roughly 170cm long, with a shoulder height of up to 75 cm. There is generally a weight difference between the males and females. Their weight can vary from 35 up to 120 kg. The average life span in the wild is 12 to 16 years. The estimation is approximately 50 percent of all jaguars are found in Brazil.
The name “jaguar” comes from the Tupi Guarani word Yaguara, which means “he who kills with one leap”
Jaguars live in different environments including forests, pampas grasslands, swamps, mountain areas and rainforests. The territory varies between 15 and 60 square miles. In most instances, the territory of the male will cross the females. This animal can be found in across America. Unfortunately, they have become nearly extinct in Northern America.
If you want to see a one, your best option is in Brazil’s Northern Pantanal. Home to the highest density of these big cats in the world.
Jaguars are solitary creatures. They hunt and live by themselves. You may see them together during the mating season. These big cats are exceptional hunters, often found hunting for capybara or caiman on the riverbanks. They are ambush hunters and when attacking they bite the skull or neck of their prey. These big cats are excellent swimmers, capable of moving through water easily.
In the Pantanal there are a few female individuals using trees to hunt from. A sequence from images can be seen of a hunting attempt in this short clip.
There are several notable differences between leopards and jaguars. The build of the jaguar is more muscular and compact. They have a more powerful biteforce, and a larger head. In comparison to the leopard, the tail of the jaguar is shorter. We can tell the difference between the two species by looking at the rosettes. The rosettes on a jaguar have spots on them. You can see the coat of the jaguar in the image on the right.
The black panther is scientifically known as a melanistic jaguar because the melanin or skin pigmentation is so much darker it appears to be black. If you study the hair or skin of a black panther in bright sunlight, you would be able to see the rosettes, the same as with a non-melanistic jaguar.
We placed a black layer over the image on the left to show you the appearance of a melanistic jaguar coat. The term black panther is not only just used for jaguars. Every big cat throughout Africa, America and Asia displaying a melanistic deviation is referred to as a black panther by the general public. The estimation is approximately 6% of all jaguars are considered melanistic.
The majority of ‘black panther’ sightings occurs in the Amazon. So far there are no sightings of melanistic jaguars in the Northern Pantanal, Porto Jofro region.
Mating season for jaguars occurs throughout the year. The female remains pregnant for between 90 and 110 days, with a litter usually consisting of one to four kittens. In most cases, the kittens will remain with their mother for one and a half years before going out on their own.
Their diet is extremely diverse. They consume deer, capybara, monkey’s, tapirs, frogs, snakes, sloths, caiman, fish and eggs. In the Northern Pantanal they mostly hunt capybara and caiman.
Unfortunately, the population is still decreasing. According to the IUCN, the jaguar is currently classified as near threatened. The main three reasons for their decline are stated below:
1) Cattle farms in South America are expanding. Jaguars hunt cattle because they are easy prey. Since the farmers are losing cattle to jaguars, they will hunt them for the protection of their cattle.
2) Trophy hunting and poaching are both prominent. they are hunted for their teeth, claws and skin.
3) Deforestation has resulted in a general habitat loss for both wildlife and jaguars. The impact for jaguars has been devastating. They require their own territory because they are solitary animals. Deforestation is forcing them out of their territory and hunting grounds due to habitat loss. This loss is mainly the result of the creation of new plantations and cattle farms.
Conservation is critical since the species is still declining. There are several private initiatives and NGO’s working continiously to protect the species through the creation of sustainable solutions. These organisations are protecting the species future through education, research and by empowering the local communities.
There are initiatives working within the Pantanal region for conservation. We encourage you to learn more about these initiatives, and hope you will offer your support. Some of the initiatives are:
Tourism is as well a vital component for conservation. The interest to see these big cats in the Pantanal has changed the view on jaguars by the local community and the value of them. Some farmers have pivoted from farming to tourism and the funds that are raised through tourism offer opportunities to compensate farmers for the loss of their cattle, a win-win situation. To conclude, visiting the Pantanal and joining a Jaguar photography tour is not only an experience of a lifetime, it helps to protect as well.
In the 2022 season social science have contributed to a better understanding on the number of individuals in the Pantanal as well as their behaviour like hunting and mating.
Below you will find a fews stats on the jaguar population as well as the number of registered individuals in the Meetings of the waters state park area, close to Porto Jofre.
The interest to see jaguars has exponentially grown over the last few years. More and more nature enthusiasts visit the Pantanal to enjoy the abundance of wildlife, in particular the bird life and of course the jaguar. The jaguars of the Northern Pantanal are habituated to boats on the river and hence, the number of daily sightings is increasing each year. Not only the number of sightings as well the number of newly identified individuals. In the dry season it is almost guaranteed you will have one or multiple encounters each day. For big cat lovers, the northern Pantanal is the place to go. For detailed information on photographing jaguars visit our Jaguar safaris page
Discover the world of jaguars through our photo gallery. Immerse yourself in the beauty of these cats, and envision the photographic opportunities that await you in the Pantanal, Brazil. Join us on an unforgettable journey along the Cuiaba river and its tributaries in Porto Jofre, to come eye to eye with the jaguars of the Pantanal.