Jaguars Essay, Research Paper
The jaguar’s robust power has given it the reputation of being immense. In reality, jaguars are smaller than legend or looks would have people believe.
Of the Family Panthera onca and a relative to tigers, lions, and panthers, the Jaguar is 6 to 7 feet long (though the Jaguars from the Amazon region can be up 9 ft long and can weigh up to 300 lb.s), 18-30 inches of which are tail length. The male Jaguars can stand up to 30 in. tall at the shoulder and weigh from 120 to 250 lb.s., while the female is shorter, weighing from 80 to 200 lb.s., both living up to 22 years.
Upon first glance, a person could mistake a Jaguar for its Asian cousin the Leopard, because both cats have a sub-species with a similar brownish-yellow fur color that is marked with dark paw-like markings. But, the jaguar has smaller dots within the larger paw-like markings. They also have a more husky, or muscular, body and a shorter tail. However, the melanistic (melanism is a condition that makes the coat appear black) form of the cats are more difficult to separate. But, in the right light, the markings can sometimes be seen. Another visual difference is the jaguar s larger head, with a larger looking jaw and an overall more square
appearance to the face, and short, sturdy legs.
But, in the wild it isn t hard to tell the difference between the cats because they live on different continents. The Jaguar, commonly known as the Spotted King Cat , is the biggest cat found in the Americas and the only member of the panthera family present within this area. The Jaguar s habitat once ranged from the southern part of the United States to the tip of South America, but now focuses on the north and central parts of South America.
Little is known about the family life of the Jaguar, but scientists do know that they have almost been hunted to extinction. Because of their rarity, scientists find it very difficult to study them-most of the information about Jaguars come from observing those in the zoo’s that breed them successfully.
The Jaguar is a animal that lives it life mostly in solitude. It often travels alone throughout the Jungle except for during mating season, which isn t at a constant time.
A Jaguar will let out a deep and hoarse cry during mating and after breeding, he leaves the female to resume his solitary life.
The female, ready to mate at 3 years old, is left to raise the 1-4 cubs she has after 100 days of pregnancy. She has her cubs in dense brush, in the rocks or in a den.
The kittens are heavily marked with black spots, which become black rings as they mature. They are blind when born and weigh 25-32 ounces. They begin to explore about 2 weeks after being born and start hunting, with their mother s assistance, after about 6 months. Cubs stay with their mother for 2 years before finding their own territory and hunting grounds.
The Jaguar lives in many different places in the world. Usually a forest dweller, they live in tropical lowlands, dry woodlands, grasslands. They are often found in areas below 8000 feet, but also live in the mountainous regions of the world. They live in places like Mexico, Central America, South America, Texas, New Mexico, Southern California, and Arizona.
The location of the Jaguar relates to the overall body size and coloration of the cat. Jaguars found in dense forested areas are only half the size of those in more open terrain. Coloration of dense forest dwelling jaguars is often darker than those found in grassland and scrub forest-the darker coats give better camouflage in the low light condition on the forest floor and gives the dark coated cat a better chance when hunting and a higher chance of survival.
The biggest difference between the Jaguar and other big cats is the fact that the Jaguar has no rivals, excepting mankind. The time of day in which the Jaguar hunts is largely dependent upon its location. For instance, when in are close contact with human habitation, they seem to be most active at night. The average prey of a jaguar is ample-they take full advantage of the various, deeply populated animal species found in rain forests.
If the Jaguar finds an area where there s plenty of prey, it might live in a circular area (with a diameter of about 3 miles) for its entire life. Otherwise, the Jaguar might spend its life spanning over 200 square miles of land (The Jaguar can cover a lot of ground quickly, even though it gets tired easily).
Jaguars prey on animals ranging from as large as domestic livestock to rodents, reptiles, monkeys and fish.
Jaguars also easily catch fish, tackle turtles, and are equally at home as a climber, hunting monkeys in the lower branches of trees. Its name, translated, means, “a beast that kills its prey with one bound”. Not only that, they are also strong swimmers, the most water loving of the cats, and like the tiger, may spend the heat of the day half submerged in a stream.
Compared to other cats of the Jaguar s size like lions or panthers that go for their prey s throat or neck, the Jaguar has powerful jaws and often kills their prey by crushing its skull with one bite. Because of this, prey are defenseless against Jaguars, even with their bony protective plates. And Jaguars can kill smaller animals, such as dogs, just by slapping them with a paw.
Jaguars usually hunt by walking along a well used trail or beside a stream crossing until they encounter their prey. While on the trail it utters a low and guttural grunt and will not become aggressive unless it is provoked or stalking prey. But, occasionally a Jaguar does attack a man but, unlike leopards, have not developed man eating tendencies. But some believe that they follow men throughout the forest only to escort them. Some Indians have even told stories of jaguars emerging from the forest to play with village children.
And, in much of the areas where they hunt, the jaguar has to compete with the human hunter who goes after many of the same animals as the cat.
Beginning in the early 1900’s, large scale hunting and export of jaguar pelts greatly reduced the population. During the high point of the Jaguar s population decline in the 60 s and 70 s, about 18,000 jaguars were killed every year for their coat, which was mainly used for fur coats or jackets.
But, with the help of environmentalists, the fashion for animal furs has declined, though the jaguar is still hunted today. Some have been killed to protect livestock. But, the main threat for these big cats is deforestation for mining and timber, which constantly changes the Jaguar s habitat and the type of prey they hunt. This also has also caused them to live in more isolated populations.
It has been estimated that there are only about 15,000 jaguars left in the wild, but conservation is trying to establish protected National Park areas to help reduce the decline of the jaguar s natural habitat. For instance, in Belize, the government has set aside 150 square miles of rain forest, which currently provides a protected environment for around 200 jaguars, the largest concentration of the wild cats species in the world. The remaining rain forests areas of South America provide a refuge for the majority of the remaining jaguar population.
In its history, much like the lion, jaguars were associated with royalty, strength, and bravery in war. In the Mayan civilization, the jaguar served as a communicator between the living and the dead, protecting royal households. The Maya, known for aggressiveness and their brutal treatment of prisoners, thought of these powerful cats as their companions in the spiritual world. Even Aztec civilization saw the jaguar as a symbol of a ruler or a warrior. For the Indians, the jaguar embodied immeasurable power.
Large or small, the jaguar gives the impression of unassailable power and many legends have revolved around these great creatures.
But, of all the big cats, the jaguar remains the least studied. A lot of the information is what scientists have seen in zoos and some is extricted from legends and stories of the big cats.