Before the 1800s, jaguars (the biggest cat in the Americas) roamed as far north as Arizona and Texas, spreading south into Mexico and South America. In the 1960s and 1970s, the appetite for exotic fur in the fashion industry left jaguar populations near the brink of extinction. The species was given the highest level of protection by CITES in 1975, banning international trade of live jaguars and their skins, claws and fangs. While this gave the species a short break for recovery, the population plummeted again by the mid-1990s due to agricultural and urban developments. At the top of the food web, jaguars play a critical role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Without them, animals lower in the food chain like deer and capybaras would overpopulate, leading to devastating impacts on vegetation.
© Stephen Kourik
Where do jaguars live?
North America, Central and South America
Tropical forests, deserts, scrublands, tend to live near bodies of water
Through Operation Jaguar, a collaborative project between IFAW, ELI, and IUCN NL, we are working to bring an end to illegal wildlife trade of jaguar parts. With funding from the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the initiative aims to collect new data, improve law enforcement systems and protect jaguar habitat. IFAW’s team works in Guyana, Suriname, Peru and Bolivia to train wildlife rangers and law enforcement officials so they can better detect wildlife crime and ensure poachers are prosecuted. We also participate in the CITES Jaguar Working Group and the Convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), where our support was key in increasing protections for jaguar habitat and migration corridors.
To mitigate human-wildlife conflict and achieve coexistence between jaguars and communities, IFAW developed the Casitas Azules project (little blue houses). The Jaguar Working Group found that 49% of reported jaguar conflicts are related to attacks on domestic and stray dogs, posing the threat of retaliation killings of jaguars and the spread of diseases like Canine Distemper virus. Through Casitas Azules, we work with communities in Quintana Roo, Mexico to build dog houses that provide dogs with adequate shelter and prevent them from roaming at night and attracting jaguars. The team also implements jaguar deterrents like light installation and holds wellness clinics that help keep community animal populations well-controlled and vaccinated to prevent disease transmission to jaguars.
When it comes to rescuing and rehabilitating jaguars, IFAW is there to answer the call. In 2020, IFAW helped rehabilitate Covi, a young jaguar injured from a car strike. After months under the specialized care of Payo Obispo Zoo, IFAW, and state officials from Quintana Roo, Covi made a full recovery and was released back into the wild. This release was the first of its kind in the area—a groundbreaking success worth celebrating. IFAW continues to work with other NGOs, community members and all levels of government to advance conservation efforts for jaguars in Mexico.
How you can help save jaguars
With support from our project teams and partners, IFAW has been able to move the needle in saving the lives of jaguars and their habitat–but there is still so much more we have to do. By making a donation, you can ensure our conservation programs and projects continue to protect wildlife.