Jaguars need large spaces to hunt an intact prey base. The home range of this top predator, across parts of North, Central, and South America, is determined by the density and biomass of its prey. Thus, its status can serve as a signal of the conservation status of the larger landscape. Ideally, jaguars have room to safely roam, but human encroachment has meant that forests are being cleared, their natural prey is being depleted, and the land is being fenced off.

Our Goal

Ensure that healthy jaguar populations exist across the diversity of habitats in the jaguar's range.

Why WCS?

WCS has been a leader on jaguars for three decades, starting with studies propelled by Dr. George Schaller in the 1980s. When we united with jaguar authorities in Mexico to conduct the first priority-setting exercise for the animal in 1999 we brought together experts from throughout the species' range, establishing a framework for its conservation. That foundation and thirst for a collaborative approach across the region persists today. We deploy biologists across multiple biomes to hold ground against the encroaching threats that are eroding jaguar range.

8 landscapes

WCS works to protect jaguars in eight large wild landscapes across eight Latin American countries.

5,000 jaguars

WCS is committed to protecting more than 5,000 jaguars and 400,000 square km of jaguar habitat.

Conservation Science for the U.S. Jaguar Recovery Plan

WCS played a critical role in providing conservation science and research to guide and support the development of a recovery plan that was announced in late 2016 for the Western Hemisphere's largest cat species along the U.S.-Mexico border. The plan was drafted by a Jaguar Recovery Team (JRT) convened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WCS's role included:

  • Conducting an exhaustive synthesis of all known jaguar observations in the northern part of its range since the 16th Century. The accuracy, precision, and reliability of observations over such a long period of history vary, so WCS built a novel database structure to account for the types of criteria team members might use to include or exclude observations from consideration.
  • The public can view the database through an online interface to access more than 400 observations of jaguars across the northern part of their range. Because it is comprehensive, instantly reflects the user's criteria, and can be easily updated by an administrator, the database gives the public an extraordinary data exploration tool for understanding the northern range of the jaguar over time.
  • Modeling potential jaguar habitat across the northern part of the range by working closely with the experts on the Jaguar Recovery Team to correlate subsets of the observations data with vegetation, terrain, water, human influence, and other ecological spatial data. The modeled habitat was correlated with existing surveys of jaguars in the Mexican portion of the area to estimate the number of jaguars an area could potentially support in the absence of threats. The report on this work shows support for significant jaguar populations south of the US-Mexico border and the potential for jaguars north of the border. The database also includes a habitat model that depicts the pathways of greatest movement probability across existing or planned roads or other linear infrastructure. WCS pinpointed the best places to plan road crossing structures to mitigate the barriers.
  • The WCS Jaguar Conservation Program worked with a group of scientists from within and outside WCS to create an authoritative guide on jaguar survey and monitoring techniques and methodologies relevant to the northern part of their range. The survey and monitoring protocol they developed for the Jaguar Recovery Team served as the scientific foundation for monitoring and decisions by the Fish and Wildlife Service as they structured their Jaguar Recovery Plan.
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Challenges and Strategies

The threats to jaguars vary across the huge swath of jaguar range where we work. Consequently, the exact mix of tools we bring to bear in each site to hold ground and maintain a safe home for jaguars are tightly tailored to fit the local and national needs.

Maya Biosphere Reserve, Guatemala

The threats to jaguars here include deforestation due in part to conversion to cattle pastures and retaliatory killing because of conflicts with ranchers and small landholders.

Our strategies include:

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Greater Yasuni Landscape, Ecuador

Roads created for oil and gas extraction allow inadequately regulated access for hunters, and as a result, jaguar prey can be overhunted to feed urban markets.

Our strategies include:

Greater Bosawas Landscape, Nicaragua

Forest conversion to unproductive pastures, retaliatory killing by locals due to conflicts with domestic pigs, and the hunting of jaguar prey for local consumption and to satisfy urban markets.

Our strategies include:

Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS

Greater Madidi-Tambopata Landscape, Bolivia and Peru

The threats to jaguars here are many, including deforestation and land conversion around the landscape's edges, illegal logging for valuable tree species, road construction and its associated impacts, including habitat loss, and overhunting in accessible areas.

Our strategies include:

Peruvian Amazon

Threats here include illegal logging, overhunting, the introduction of domestic livestock, and deforestation for monoculture crops and pastures.

Our strategies include:

Gran Chaco, Bolivia and Paraguay

The expansion of ranch developments between significant protected areas is a threat. With that comes increased jaguar mortality due to a generalized antipathy towards jaguars and retaliatory killing in response to attacks.

Our strategies include:

Amazonas, Brazil

Here, increased road and hydro-power development, an expanding human population, demand for bush meat in urban centers, and retaliatory killings when jaguars attack lightly managed livestock are all serious threats to these big cats.

Our strategies include:

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