American Jaguars Featured in the Cover Story of the Smithsonian Magazine

Jaguar (Panthera onca palustris) female, Piquiri River, the Pantanal, Brazil by Charles J. Sharp. CC BY-SA 4.0
Jaguar (Panthera onca palustris) female, Piquiri River, the Pantanal, Brazil by Charles J. Sharp. CC BY-SA 4.0

In February of this year, Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity created a media firestorm when they released a video of El Jefe: the only known jaguar (Panthera onca) in the United States. The footage went viral, as many people were stunned to learn that a wild jaguar inhabited the US. They were equally shocked to learn that a foreign mining company was planning to build an enormous open-pit copper mine in the middle of El Jefe’s territory – which is supposed to be protected as jaguar critical habitat. Now El Jefe is getting even more publicity, since the cover story of the October 2016 edition of the Smithsonian magazine is titled The Return of the Great American Jaguar.

This article is far too rich and detailed for me to adequately summarize here. It largely focuses on the work of Chris Bugbee, Conservation CATalyst’s Senior Researcher. It follows him as he checks camera traps in southern Arizona, and explains how he became so involved in jaguar conservation in the Southwest borderlands. It also documents Chris’ discovery of the remains of a black bear (Ursus americanus) that had been killed and eaten by El Jefe: the first recorded instance of a jaguar predating on that species. But the article, created by author Richard Grant and photographer Bill Hatcher, contains some disturbing information as well.

The Return of the Great American Jaguar raises some questions about the agencies that are supposedly responsible for protecting jaguars, especially the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Even though USFWS scientists concluded that the proposed Rosemont Mine would impact 12 endangered and threatened species, the agency recently declared that the project would comply with the Endangered Species Act. They also do not seem worried about the fact that the mine would be located within federally protected jaguar critical habitat. Equally worrying is the finding that the USFWS has not ruled against a single development project that it has reviewed in the past 7 years. That amounts to over 6,000 cases. Luckily the Los Angeles division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has recently recommended that a key permit for the Rosemont Mine be denied, although the fight is far from over.

Be sure to read the Smithsonian magazine’s original article. It contains a wealth of information about El Jefe, Conservation CATalyst, and the return of the American jaguar.

Click here to read the original article from Richard Grant and Bill Hatcher


33 Thoughts

  1. Our environmental agencies need to protect this majectic animal. Big cats and other large predators, play a vital role in the biosphere, and they too can combat climate change.

    Thanks for sharing this info.. I have to read those articles

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Vinny! I agree with you completely: wildlife agencies need to protect El Jefe and other jaguars who enter the US. They are a part of our natural heritage, and like you said play important roles in their ecosystems. I’m also glad that you mentioned climate change. As that process continues, we have no way of knowing whether or not current jaguar habitat in Northwestern Mexico will remain favorable for the species. Therefore they might need to move further north, which is one reason why the jaguar critical habitat needs to remain protected. We need to anticipate the needs jaguars might have in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Youve hit the nail on the head. I mentioned climate change in terms of overpopulation and soil erosion.

        Youve covered the other more aspect of climate change that I forgot to mention.

        Yes, if the jaguars natural habitat is protected, then they could alter other ecosystems, or come into contact with humans.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Excellent points, Vinny. Top predators like jaguars do help to protect their ecosystems by keeping large ungulate populations in check, which reduces the problems you mentioned.

          Another issue that I think is important when it comes to American jaguars is that of credibility. How can Americans tell people in other countries to protect jaguars if we’re not willing to help restore our own? That seems very unfair to me.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Zee! Yes, I’m definitely a jaguar enthusiast! They’re incredible animals, and I think a good model for us humans to follow. They’re very powerful, and yet they only use their strength when they have to. I hope we’ll be able to recover our jaguars in the US one day, although it will likely take a long time.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes the climate change plus the inability to realise the severity of the wildlife situation is putting leopards in jeopardy everywhere actually. I was surprised to know from you that they were able to find and film snow leopards here in Pakistan in a documentary !

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep, they were able to film a mother snow leopard and her cub in the Karakoram Mountains. At least I think that’s where they were. At any rate, they had lots of help from local people who knew about snow leopards! I doubt the BBC would’ve succeeded without them.


    1. I know there’s definitely a lot of money involved with this mine, but I hope you can understand why I’m hesitant to accuse the USFWS of being bribed. Their record concerning the development projects they’ve reviewed doesn’t make sense to me, but I don’t want to claim there’s anything illegal going on. Again, I’m sure you can understand why! But thankfully public agencies in the US can also be swayed by the voice of the people, so it’s important to not remain silent about the mine.

      And yes, it is impressive that El Jefe was able to take down a black bear! Jaguars are exceptionally powerful for their size!

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Yeah during the establishment of modern civilization the way the forests very cleared……the ill effects ate being felt now. I really hope the jaguar restoration projects find huge success and set an example!! :)

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Me too Mithai! I think eventually jaguars will return to the US, but I expect it will take a long time. The political situation along the US Mexico border is not good, which might be making it harder for jaguars to move back and forth. Right now I think the top priority is to strengthen the jaguar populations in northern Mexico, while also maintaining good habitat in the US. That includes not establishing any giant mines right where the only known American jaguar is living -_-

            Liked by 1 person

          3. Yeah definitely!! Its very important to have a stable habitat in both US and Mexico if the jaguars keep moving in between them. This are going politically hayware everywhere….. India Pakistan might go to war anyday you know……things are really taking a really bad turn…..
            But I really hope all of you are successful in your endeavours of protecting the jaguars!!

            Liked by 1 person

          4. I hope so too. It’s an existing problem for decades but things just got pretty hot in the last few weeks… case of any war the civilians from both countries die first…..that’s just horrible. A war just brings down the lives and economy of both countries…… hope its going to get avoided.

            Liked by 1 person

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