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Although populations of jaguar (Panthera onca) are abundant in some areas, this wild cat – the largest living today in the Americas – is threatened by illegal hunting,  deforestation, and loss of wild prey.

IUCN Red List Status
Least concern Near threatened Vulnerable Endangered Critically endangered
Status on CITES Appendices
  Jaguars exist in 18 countries in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina
Jaguars have been eradicated from 40 percent of their historic range.   Jaguars are extinct in 2 countries: El Salvador and Uruguay


Jaguars exist in 18 countries in the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina. While the rare individual has been spotted in the US, there has not been evidence of a breeding population in the US in more than 50 years.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the jaguar was heavily hunted for its fur; as many as 18,000 jaguars were killed each year until 1973, when the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) brought the pelt trade to a near halt. Today, jaguars continue to be hunted, mostly due to conflict with humans.

The jaguar is listed as “Near Threatened” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, though its status is in review and may be elevated to “Vulnerable” in the next year.

Main threats

As humans develop land for agriculture and other uses, jaguar habitats are lost or fragmented, isolating populations and jeopardizing genetic integrity of the species.

Jaguars are threatened by direct hunting by humans; for instance, some ranchers kill jaguars in retaliation or because of their perceived threat to livestock and livelihoods.

Lack of natural prey, like deer and peccaries, due to over hunting by humans, contributes to population declines and forces jaguars to prey on domestic animals, further fueling human-jaguar conflict.

Conservation efforts

Jaguar has been protected under Appendix I of  the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 1 July 1975 which means commercial international trade in jaguar, its parts and products is prohibited.

Jaguar is fully protected at the national level across most of its range, with hunting prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, French Guiana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States, and Venezuela, and hunting restrictions are in place in Guatemala and Peru. Specific conservation plans for the species have been developed in Brazil, Honduras, Mexico and Panama.

With habitat fragmentation as a major threat, and taxonomic research suggesting little significant differences among Jaguar populations, an ambitious programme has been launched to conserve a continuous north to south habitat corridor through the species range.

Addressing livestock management and animals that prey on livestock is a high priority for conservation efforts in many Jaguar range countries due to the impact of retaliatory killing of Jaguars and other predators.

The following is a list of actions that a variety of Jaguar range countries have put in place to enhance Jaguar conservation.

  • Respond to reports of livestock depredation, and provide advice and assistance to improve livestock management practices, thereby reducing depredation and associated retaliatory killings of Jaguars;
  • Understand and address the hunting of Jaguar prey for sport, commercial and subsistence uses, and raise awareness about the laws governing the hunting of wildlife and the need for adopting sustainable hunting practices;
  • Monitor and safe-guarding Jaguar core populations, Jaguar Conservation Units, or JCUs (see Rabinowitz and Zeller 2010);
  • Maintain national and regional population connectivity through the identification of corridors for Jaguar movement between JCUs and applying conservation actions in those corridors through the engagement of corridor stakeholders as in the development of a Conservation Action Plan for the Central Belize Corridor (Kay et al. 2015);
  • Develop national, regional and local monitoring programs for Jaguars and their prey.