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Jaguar (Panthera onca)

  • Jaguar (Panthera onca)

    Common Name/s: Jaguar  
    Scientific name: Panthera onca
    Brazilian common name/s: Onça-pintada

    Quick facts (average values with minimum and maximum in parenthesis)

    Body length (cm): (100-180)a Tail (cm):  (45-75)a Diet: Carnivorous
    Weight (kg): (36-158)a Height (cm): (68-75)a 
    Home range (km2):  5 – 260 a,b
    Litter size: 2 (1-4) a Gestation (days): (91-111) a Longevity (years): 
    Social structure: Solitary
    Activity pattern: Nocturnal and diurnal

    a (Seymour 1989), b (Cavalcanti & Gese 2009)

    Physical description
    Is the largest feline in the Americas, endowed with great muscular strength and the force of its bite is considered the largest of all felines. Another striking feature of this species is that it does not meow like most felines. Like the Lion, Tiger and Leopard, it sends a very strong series of grunts, known as a roar that can be heard for kilometres.
    It has golden yellow fur with black spots on the head, neck and legs. The shoulders, back and flanks have spots forming rosettes that have one or more dots inside. Individuals may also be found that are entirely black, which is just a melanic characteristic not a different species. Even in these melanic individuals, the spots can be viewed under oblique light.

    Habitat and Ecology
    Originally the distribution of jaguars went from south-western United States to northern Argentina. Now jaguars are officially extinct in the United States (some individuals occasionally cross over from Mexico), but can still be found in Latin America, including Brazil. Populations are in decline particularly where the species comes into conflict with human activities and in Brazil, jaguars have virtually disappeared from most parts of the northeast, south and southeast (Sanderson et al. 2002; Torres et al. 2008).
    They occur across different habitats, from forests like the Amazon and Atlantic forest, to more open environments such as the Pantanal and the Cerrado. They are solitary animals, with males and females only come together during the reproductive period. They are mainly active at dusk and at night but can also be active during the day (Romero-Muñoz et al. 2010; Seymour 1989). They are territorial, however territories of both sexes may overlap and the territory of a male may often overlap two or more females (Cavalcanti & Gese 2009).
    They have a varied diet which can include tapirs to frogs (Seymour 1989), but prey usually consists of medium to large sized vertebrates including: white-lipped and collared peccaries, sloths, capybaras, deer, armadillos and even crocodiles (Azevedo 2008; Cavalcanti & Gese 2010; Dalponte 2002). However when the numbers of natural prey decrease, usually as a result of changes caused by man, jaguars may turn to feed on domestic animals and are therefore persecuted (Azevedo & Murray 2007; Michalski et al. 2006; Silveira et al. 2008).
    The mother takes care of the cubs until they are approximately two years old. During this period, she teaches the young how to hunt and survive.

    Threats and Conservation
    The destruction of habitat (Michalski & Peres 2005) coupled with poaching mainly as a result of the alleged economic harm caused by predation on domestic livestock has resulted in severe population declines (Sanderson et al. 2002). It is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as “Near Threatened” and by IBAMA as vulnerable and is on Appendix I of CITES.

    Online links
    IUCN redlist ( presents a summary of current knowledge on distribution and conservation status

    IUCN Cat Specialist Group:

    IUCN Cat Specialist Group species accounts:

    Azevedo, F. C. C. (2008). Food habits and livestock depredation of sympatric jaguars and pumas in the Iguacu National Park area, south Brazil. Biotropica, 40, 494-500.

    Azevedo, F. C. C., & Murray, D. L. (2007). Evaluation of potential factors predisposing livestock to predation by jaguars. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 71, 2379-2386.

    Cavalcanti, S. M. C., & Gese, E. M. (2009). Spatial ecology and social interactions of jaguars (Panthera onca) in the southern Pantanal, Brazil. Journal of Mammalogy, 90, 935-945.

    Cavalcanti, S. M. C., & Gese, E. M. (2010). Kill rates and predation patterns of jaguars (Panthera onca) in the southern Pantanal, Brazil. Journal of Mammalogy, 91, 722–736 .

    Dalponte, J. C. (2002). Dieta del Jaguar y Depredación de Ganado en el Norte del Pantanal, Brasil. In R. Medellín, C. L. B. Equihua, C. B. Chetkiewicz, P. G. Crawshaw Jr, A. Rabinowitz, K. H. Redford, J. G. Robinson, E. W. Sanderson & A. B. Taber (Eds.), El jaguar en el nuevo milenio (pp. 201-214). Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica/Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México/Wildlife Conservation Society.

    Michalski, F., & Peres, C. A. (2005). Anthropogenic determinants of primate and carnivore local extinctions in a fragmented forest landscape of southern
    Amazonia. Biological Conservation, 124, 383-396.

    Michalski, F., Boulhosa, R. L. P., Faria, A., & Peres, C. A. (2006). Human-wildlife conflicts in a fragmented Amazonian forest landscape: determinants of large felid depredation on livestock. Animal Conservation, 9, 179-188.

    Romero-Muñoz, A., Maffei, L., Cuéllar, E., & Noss, A. J. (2010). Temporal separation between jaguar and puma in the dry forests of southern Bolivia. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 26, 303-311.

    Sanderson, E. W., Redford, K. H., Chetkiewicz, C. L. B., Medellin, R. A., Rabinowitz, A. R., Robinson, J. G., & Taber, A. B. (2002). Planning to save a species: the jaguar as a model. Conservation Biology, 16, 58-72.

    Seymour, K. L. (1989). Panthera onca. Mammalian Species, 340, 1-9.

    Silveira, L., Boulhosa, R., Astete, S., & Jácomo, A. T. A. (2008). Management of domestic livestock predation by jaguars in Brazil. CAT News. Special Issue The jaguar in Brazil, , 26-30.

    Torres, N. M., De Marco Jr, P., Filho, J. A. F. D., & Silveira, L. (2008). Jaguar Distribution in Brazil: Past, Present and Future. Cat News, 4, 4-8.

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