Once revered as deities by the Maya, jaguars possess immense grace and power. These agile hunters once lived throughout South and Central America and the United States — where they evolved — but they lost habitat and were killed off to near extinction north of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Jaguars’ Journey Toward Protection

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protected jaguars as endangered in 1972. But in 1980, responding to objections, the Service removed jaguars within the United States from the endangered species list — in blatant violation of the Endangered Species Act.

In 1997, in response to a Center campaign, jaguars were again protected as endangered. After that, we three times sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to win a recovery plan and critical habitat. The agency finally designated critical habitat in 2014 and a recovery plan in 2019.

Meanwhile we’ve fought to make policies meaningful for U.S. jaguars on the ground. We helped reveal a coverup in 2009 after Arizona Game and Fish Department illegally killed the only known jaguar in the United States at the time and lied about the circumstances, and we successfully sued the department to ensure it never kills another jaguar. And in 2022, in response to a lawsuit by the Center and allies, a federal appeals court upheld a decision to block a vast open-pit mine in jaguar critical habitat south of Tucson.

The Path Ahead for Jaguars

In December 2022 the Center petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce jaguars in New Mexico and designate much more critical habitat in both New Mexico and Arizona. We’re working with communities throughout the U.S. Southwest and nationwide to build support for this pivotal restoration request and encourage the Service to approve the petition.

Check out our press releases to learn more about the Center's actions for jaguars.

Banner jaguar photo © Jonathan Truong.