The name jaguar originated from the indigenous word “yaguar,” which means “he who kills with one leap.” Jaguars are the biggest cat in The Americas and the third biggest cat in the world after tigers and lions. Although jaguars and leopards have similar spots, you can tell the difference between the two based on the size of the cat and the shape of their spots. If you notice dark rosettes and spots on a stunning coat, short legs, and large round head, then you’ve spotted a jaguar. Confident swimmers, jaguars are not afraid of water and live close to lakes, rivers, and wetlands. This environment puts them close to their prey: capybaras, deer, tortoises, iguanas, armadillos, fish, birds, and monkeys.
Jaguars have the most powerful bite out of all the other big cats. Using their bite strength and powerful teeth, they can take down prey three to four times their own weight like caimans and tapirs, South America’s largest animal. Their teeth are strong enough to bite through the hides of crocodilians and hard shells of turtles and armadillos. Typically, a jaguar will bite the back of the skull rather than biting the neck or throat like other big cats when attacking their prey.
Jaguars are near threatened according to the IUCN red list status. The biggest threat to these large cats is the high rates of deforestation in South America from logging and clearing space for cattle ranching. The loss of jaguar’s homes, isolated populations, and reduced prey lead to jaguars having a harder time to breed. Changes to the jaguar’s natural habitat has led them to hunt livestock, which in turn has resulted in many being killed by people to protect their livelihood. Since not every threat is the same across the jaguar’s range in South America, different countries have different strategies to promote healthy jaguar populations.