There are tigers in Asia and there are lions in Africa, but the Americas have the magestic jaguar. A jaguar is a big, wild cat native to North and South America. They are the largest big feline in the Americas and are also the most powerful.
As beautiful as they are, this animal is built to kill. They may not be the fastest cat, but they can swim, jump, and even climb trees! Perhaps the only thing that can't do is escape the threats they face from humans.
Because jaguars are top predators, the only real dangers they face are from humans. It began in the 1800s when the American West was being settled. It took a really long time for humans to realize how few jaguars were left and they were only put on the endangered species list in 1972. They are still endangered today.
One of the biggest reasons that jaguars are endangered is because humans have destroyed their habitat. Habitat destruction is when trees are cut down and land is cleared and changed from what it originally was. Jaguars live in all types of forests and many grasslands. Jaguars are native to the southwest part of the United States and in Central and South America. Their forests have now been turned into neighborhoods, offices, and even cities!
Sometimes, a habitat is destroyed so that humans can use the land in other ways. Logging (cutting down trees) and cattle ranching are two examples of this. As land is cleared, animals that jaguars eat either die or move somewhere else, leaving the jaguar with little food to prey on. Jaguars are tree-climbers, so cutting down their forests makes it hard for them to escape hunters.
In grasslands, some of the grasses that jaguars use to hide are dying from pollution.
As you might have guessed, hunting has been a big problem for the jaguar population. In the 1960s and 1970s, around 18,000 jaguars per year were killed so that their coats could be made into clothes! Even though it became illegal to hunt jaguars in 1972, poaching (the illegal hunting of animals) continued because of the high demand for their beautiful fur.
Even if jaguars weren't being killed for sport, sometimes the cats would pose a threat to people and livestock when they came to close to homes and farms. People used to hire special hunters to kill jaguars who were looking to make a meal out of farm animals.
Saving the Jaguar
Making it against the law to hunt and kill jaguars was a big step in saving them from extinction, but the United States went one step further and made it illegal to even sell jaguar fur. In 2010, President Obama decided to form a recovery plan to increase the number of jaguars and help protect their habitats from being destroyed. Hopefully, these steps will be successful in preventing the killing of more jaguars and in allowing their population to grow once more.
The jaguar is a large and capable wild cat native to the Americas. Due to habitat destruction and hunting, the jaguar population dropped enough that they were put on the endangered species list in 1972. Even so, poaching continued and though the jaguar is still endangered, new protection laws have been put in place to (hopefully) save the jaguar from extinction.
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Why are Jaguars Endangered?: Discussion Questions
In this activity, you'll check your knowledge regarding the reasons why jaguars are endangered animals.
For this activity, print or copy this page on a blank piece of paper. Then, carefully read the given narrative and provide a written response to the questions that follow. You may use the web to search for ideas in answering the questions.
A jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest native cat species of the New World and the third-largest in the world. At present, the jaguar's range extends from Mexico through Central America to South America. It is an apex predator, meaning it is at the top of the food chain and is not preyed upon in the wild. Unfortunately, the species is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its rapidly declining population. Particularly significant declines occurred in the 1960s when more than 18,000 jaguars were killed for their fur in the Brazilian Amazon yearly. Conservation groups estimate that there are only 15,000 jaguars left in the wild.
- Who played an integral part in the declining population of the jaguars? Explain your answer.
- There are about 15,000 jaguars in the wild. Since their numbers are quite big, should people continue hunting jaguars?
- Even though hunting jaguars has been prohibited, why are their populations still on the decline?
- Give an example of how people have helped in the conservation of jaguars.
- Humans have played a principal role in the declining population of jaguars.
- No, because jaguars are near-threatened species. If hunting goes on, then they will follow the same fate of critically-endangered animals, such as tigers and orangutans.
- Populations are declining due to habitat loss and frequent conflicts with ranchers and farmers.
- Countries and organizations all over the world have signed a treaty to end the use and sale of jaguar products, especially its fur.
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