of power and grace, the jaguar is a symbol of mystery and
wilderness throughout the Americas. El tigre is known
far and wide as a magical cat—elusive, crafty, and fierce.
While they prefer to live near warm, wet, riverine areas,
jaguars thrive in a multitude of habitats from the jungle
to desert to pine forests.
powerful was the jaguar that ancient civilizations worshiped
it as a god. Now it is on the brink of extinction. Centuries
of reverence quickly turned to hatred. Hunting, logging, overgrazing,
rampant development, and government predator "control" programs
have all but eliminated the western hemisphere’s largest cat
from the American Southwest.
used to roam the borderland states from southern California
to Louisiana. A small population of jaguars was known to exist
in Arizona and New Mexico, as far north as the Grand Canyon.
As late as the 1960's, jaguar reproduction was documented
in Arizona (in the form of kittens shot dead). But the same
federal predator extermination program that wiped out wolves
also targeted jaguars, and along with the efforts of individual
ranchers, jaguars were extirpated from the United States.
the big spotted cats still roam up into their ancestral U.S.
range from Mexico, often to meet the same fatal fate. In 1997,
a legal and grassroots organizing campaign by the Center for
Biological Diversity resulted in the jaguar's listing as an
endangered species in the United States, finally providing
the species legal protection.
the Center is participating in a multi-agency Jaguar Conservation
Team that is dominated by the livestock industry and advocates
of killing predators. The Center's role ensures that the biological
needs of recovering jaguars are prioritized over political
concerns. For instance, through participation on the Team's
habitat subcommittee, we were able to block a proposal to
only consider a narrow range of former jaguar habitat (that
does not include the Gila National Forest and other key areas)
for future recovery efforts.
Center has also documented a series of jaguar sightings in
and around the Gila National Forest, including several that
were either never reported to wildlife authorities or had
been ignored once reported. This documentation will help us
garner a proper evaluation of the Gila's habitat suitability
for jaguars, in preparation for development of a federal Jaguar
future recovery plan must include the Gila Ecosystem and many
of the Sky Islands where jaguars used to roam. A combination
of private efforts and those of the Jaguar Conservation Team
will point to the best remaining habitats for jaguar augmentation