Panthera onca



Scientific name: Panthera onca
English names: Jaguar, Panther
Spanish and local names: Jaguar, Tigre, Yaguareté, Uturuncu
At la Senda Verde: Cubai, 15 year-old male
Body weight: 70 to 249 pounds (31 to 121 kilograms)
Body length: 3.8 to 6 feet (1.1 to 1.8 meters)


On the top

The Jaguar is the America’s largest feline and the apex predator in the ecosystems he lives in. He has no predators himself, except humans. Native people in Bolivia report that when jaguars are eating, they will not look up, no matter what the threat is; you can walk up to a jaguar and touch his head when he is eating and he will simply not care about it . Jaguars are also at the top of the world’s largest cat list; they are the third largest feline in the world, only after the Lion and the Tiger.


Jaguar comes from the Tupi-guaraní word Yagua which means “hunts in a single bound”. The most common name for this feline in Spanish is Tigre “Tiger”. Yaguareté in Guaraní is a common name in some regions and to the Andeans he is known as Uturuncu. Its scientific binomial name, Panthera onca is made of the words Panthera, which means “Panther” and is a correct English name for this feline, and the word onca which is a deformation of the Greek word linx.

Habitat and Distribution

Jaguars once roamed in forests, deserts and scrublands from southern United States to the Patagonia. Today their distribution is reduced to areas in southeastern Mexico, Central America and all of the tropical forests in South America. Unlike the Puma, that can adapt to all the ecosystems in these continents, the Jaguar tends to stay in warm climates, which limits its southern range to northern Argentina and how high he climbs into the Andes mountains to 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) above sea level.

Life and Behaviour

Jaguars are thought to be similar to Leopards because of the spots in their fur, but they are quite different as they have rosettes instead of spots and are considerably larger and tougher built. Jaguars have very similar behaviour as that of Tigers, and is probably the reason they are called “Tigres” in Spanish in the places they live in. They are fond of swimming and water just like tigers and have similar ambush hunting techniques. Jaguars have very muscular jaw bones built to pierce through reptile skins and have a unique way to kill their pray by biting through the skull, which kills them in an instant.

Jaguars are solitary creatures, they will come together to mate and never again are two Jaguars seen together, except a mother and her cubs. Female Jaguars will have up to three cubs which they will stay with the mother until they are two years old. Jaguars don’t attack humans unless they are very hungry and the human is alone, or if a person accidentally crosses with a female with cubs, in which case she will attack preventively .


Jaguars are listed by the IUCN red list as near threatened. Their main threats are the sales of their parts, habitat loss and loss of pray. When they lose pray to hunt on, they will try and attack livestock, which turns ranchers against them. This is a major issue in southeastern Bolivia and southwestern Brazil, where government incentives exist to make up for cattle lost to Jaguars, so that the ranchers don’t kill them. Habitat loss is also a major threat to them, as their home grows smaller by the day. Finally, the sale of their fur has been one of the oldest threats these cats have had to face. The last 5 years in Bolivia, Jaguar loss has increased dramatically due to a recently opened Chinese market for Jaguar fangs, a crime organized by Chinese workers that have been coming to Bolivia to work on recent government projects.

Jaguars in Native Culture and Mythlogy

Maybe along with the Eagle, the Jaguar is the animal that appears the most in ancient and modern native artwork and is by far the most revered animal there is by most if not all indigenous nations modern and ancient. To the Mayas, the Jaguar called Balam, represents the mysterious forces of the underworld and can also represent the inner strength in a person. Jaguars and jaguar-humans were the most important figure in Olmec iconography and spirituality. It is a widespread knowledge and belief amongst indigenous nations as well as extinct cultures like the Olmecs, that some humans where able to transform themselves into Jaguars. In Bolivia the Tsimane people of the Beni region speak of some people being able to perform this ancient power.



  • Each Jaguar’s prints or rosettes are unique to each individual, they are their ID’s
  • Jaguars have been known to cross the Panama canal swimming
  • Jaguars with melanoma are completely black and are known as Black Panthers or simply Panthers.
  • Jaguars have so much jaw power that they can pierce the skull of any of their large pray, which include capybaras, wild pigs, tapirs and caimans.
  • Jaguars have been seen eating the leaves of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine, known as ayahuasca, maybe, to enhance their hunting skills.




Cubai is a 15 year-old Jaguar male that arrived on november 20th to La Senda Verde. He was rescued and was staying in the La Paz zoo but because of his old age had a hard time adapting to the high altitude and cold weather. We are currently gathering funds to build him a large, new enclosure.




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