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Jaguar - Panthera onca

By: C.M.Shorter

The Jaguar simply put is one beautiful animal! Jaguars are regal and have a look of royalty look with their striking coats, streamlined muscle contour and penetrating, seemingly all knowing eyes. Locking stares with this animal will surely make you feel as if you are being sized up for a meal! Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere. Originally believed to have evolved from distant leopard-like ancestors from Eurasia, the species made their way across the Bering land bridge during the Pleistocene period into the New World - now the Americas. Evolution of this species, is similar to some of our Great Cats, like the Tigers and Lions who also made passage across this land bridge. Current range which once included the southern portion of North America is now restricted to Mexico, Central and South America and extending down into northern Argentina.

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Jaguar
Jaguar - Panthera onca
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Jaguars are sometimes confused with the African Leopard, who inhabit parts of Asia and the plains of Africa. Jaguars are larger than the Leopard with a broader head, and shorter stocky legs and longer tail than their African counterpart. The Jaguar has a coat that almost glistens with spectacular, close-set symmetrical dark rosette spotting and mesmerizing eyes with hues in the color spectrum ranging from rich golden yellow to light green. Melanistic individuals have been documented, particularly in areas with dense forest underbrush. Albino Jaguars, similar to our African White Lions which were only first seen in the wild as recently as 1975, have been recorded although are extremely rare. Another example of the marvels of nature's genetic pool is the White Tiger which is not a true albino, or a separate sub-species, but born instead with dominant recessive stripe gene.
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The Jaguar's name comes from Ancient Indian term "yaguara" meaning "a beast that kills with one pounce". The scientific name for Jaguar, Panthera onca translates into "hunter" and "barb" or "hook" referencing their powerful claws. Jason and David explain to us in the TigerHomes DVD: Power Cats "Locked & Loaded" the extreme muscle density concentration typical in the feline structure which comprises a good portion of the body weight of these animals making them powerful hunters. Extreme claws and fangs are nature's added bonus! Actually all Wild Cats must rely on these physical features in order to survive as top predators and prime hunters in nature's tightly woven web of balance to complete the circle of life. Females are polyestrous year round and receptive to breeding for very short periods of just 10-12 days. Cubs are born with long, pale buff colored pelage which darkens as they grow.

Jaguars figure significantly in the Central and South American native tribes history and this cat has figured prominently, both feared and respected, in these societies for centuries. Massive monuments devoted to their worship were built in honor of the Jaguar by the Olmecs of Mexico. Ancient Mayan history tells us the Jaguar symbolized the night sun of the underworld. The Tucano Indians of the Amazon believed the sun created the Jaguar to represent him on this earth. Temples from ancient times depicting this reverence for the Jaguar still stand today. Modern day Indian descendants continue to worship and believe the Jaguar to be an animal deity.

It is estimated that during the 1960s, some 15,000 Jaguars were being shot annually in the Brazilian Amazon alone. During this period Jaguars were targeted in mass by human fur trade hunters. Focus had shifted to the Amazon Basin, from the Asian and African region where other large cats like Tigers, Leopards, Cheetahs and Snow Leopards had been hunted for their fur so intensely the stock had been severely depleted. Jaguars were listed on CITES Appendix I in 1973 making it illegal to trade their skin or parts for commercial gain and offered full protection over most of their range with the exception of Ecuador and Guyana. Hunting of problem animals is allowed and they are often shot on sight in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru, particularly for the taking of domestic livestock. Deforestation, loss of habitat and subsequent prey reduction remains the most significant ongoing threat to their survival.

There is an official Jaguar Conservation Program which includes tracking of the animals with the aid of radio collars for population count, and their plan extends mainly to monitoring of the Jaguar's habitat. The exact population is unknown as previous studies focused on relatively small areas due to the rugged nature of the Rainforest terrain. The Amazon Rainforest remains the key stronghold for the Jaguar where they thrive along riversides, lakes and streams in the dense jungle canopy.

Please be sure to check back often for coming attractions! You can be part of the beautiful world of nature and learn about these magnificent creatures just by logging on to the TigerHomes Animal website. As always, we hope you will take a moment to visit our Free Animal Web Cams featuring White Tigers, Golden Tigers, Bengal Tigers, Siberian Tigers, African Lions and Lemurs in naturalistic habitats complete with State-of-the-Art Viewer Snapshots. Enter your own Snapshot into our Viewer Gallery for a chance to win one of our Monthly Prizes or email your photo to a friend to Spread the Word about TigerHomes Sanctuary. Be sure to visit our TigerHomes Forum, voice your opinion and join in the fun! We hope you keep watching, listening & learning!

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Scientific Name: Panthera onca
Common Name(s): Jaguar
Range: Mexico, Central and South America
Average Weight: Males 55 kg (122 lbs) Females 36 kg (80 lbs)
Length: 150 - 260 cm (63 - 103")
Diet: Carnivorous. Ungulates (deer), Peccaries, caimans, fish, reptiles and birds.
Gestation Period: 90 - 105 Days
Cub Maturity: 4 - 5 Months
Cubs Per Litter: 1 - 4 Kittens, born with light buff fur developing rosette fur pattern as they mature.
Lifespan: 18 - 22 years.
Predators: Man.
Social Structure: Solitary.
Territory Size: Varies by range from 30 - 150 km (17 - 87 miles)
Conservation Status: Placed on CITES Appendix I

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