Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, April 24, 2019

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017,

Inadequate Jaguar Recovery Plan Paves Way for Trump Border Wall

Administration Nixes Opportunity to Recover Iconic Southwest Cats

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today released a feeble recovery plan for endangered jaguars that relies entirely on Mexico to ensure the cats’ survival. The plan’s criteria for removing protection from jaguars could be met without a single individual occupying the species’ vast historic range in the United States.    

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan falsely states that keeping just two areas along the border free of walls would somehow be enough for this wide-ranging animal to move freely in its habitat.  

“This so-called recovery plan won’t do anything to help the jaguar, so the threats to its survival and recovery will still require urgent action,” said Michael Robinson, a senior conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The plan is a green light for Trump to build his wildlife-blocking border wall. Jaguars can’t use Google maps to find tiny gaps in hundreds of miles of impermeable walls.”

The Service developed the recovery plan in response to its 2009 loss in a lawsuit filed by the Center and Defenders of Wildlife. The plan assumes without evidence that 300 jaguars live in Sonora, Mexico. This is a more optimistic starting point than the Service’s 2012 citation of studies pointing to a maximum 271 jaguars in the province — and possibly as few as 50.

“The plan outlines measures that Mexican authorities can take to protect jaguars, but they won’t be enough to recover these majestic animals,” said Robinson. “Without reintroduction in the Southwest and cross-border connectivity, isolation and genetic problems may doom the jaguars in northern Mexico.”

The draft recovery plan’s overly optimistic assumption that 300 jaguars inhabit Sonora underpins the Service’s laissez-faire approach to jaguars in the United States, where no measures will be taken to restore them.

From 1996 to the present, seven male jaguars born in Mexico have been documented in the United States. The last known female jaguar in the country was shot by a hunter in September 1963, in Arizona’s Apache National Forest.

Today’s recovery plan estimates that Sonora has enough habitat to support 1,161 jaguars — a scale of magnitude higher than a previous estimate that the province could support just 172 jaguars. Increasing the estimate of habitat capacity justifies ignoring high-quality but unoccupied jaguar habitat in the U.S. Southwest.

The plan explicitly allows the further narrowing and deterioration of the gene pool of the isolated jaguars in Sonora and completely ignores the plight of an even more imperiled population in northeastern Mexico south of Texas.

In 2014, in response to a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 764,207 acres of critical habitat to conserve jaguars in southern Arizona and New Mexico. The designation prohibits federal actions that would harm the habitat.

The jaguar was placed on the U.S. endangered species list in 1997 because of a previous Center lawsuit.

Jaguars evolved in North America thousands of years before they colonized Central and South America. Their fossil remains have been found as far afield as Nebraska and Maryland. Depictions of them in American Indian art and stories have been identified throughout the South and Midwest, and European explorers and later Americans wrote of their jaguar encounters in states that ranged from California to the Carolinas.

Media-ready footage of the jaguar known as El Jefe is available for download.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

More press releases