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The Jaguar (Panthera onca) is one of the Americas' most iconic species. With its distinctive coat and powerful bite, the panther is the third largest cat species in the world, measuring up to over six feet long.
The species has been of great significance to the mythologies and beliefs of numerous indigenous peoples throughout history and continues to hold great cultural importance to this day. Seeing the sheer majesty of these incredible creatures, it is not surprising that they have held such an important place in the hearts of such societies.
Today, the jaguar's range extends from the most southern parts of Arizona in the US, across Mexico and central America. This adaptable species inhabits a wide variety of habitats but has a preference for tropical and subtropical forests and wetlands. Unusually for a cat, it is a good swimmer and lives a solitary life of stalking and ambushing a variety of prey species.
The Jaguar is one of the world's great ecosystem managers, with an important stabilising role in regulating populations of prey species and forming a niche as a 'keystone' predator species. Without keystone species such as jaguars (and many other examples), ecosystems will quickly lose their health, and severe environmental and ecological consequences can follow in rapid succession. That is why their conservation is so important.
Although at present, it is not endangered, it has been listed as 'Near Threatened' for almost two decades and, like many species throughout its range, is threatened by loss of habitat (and fragmentation thereof), poaching, and conflicts with ranchers in the Americas.
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