Home to the world’s first and only jaguar reserve, Belize has one of the healthiest populations of jaguars (Panthera onca) in Central America. Endowed with a brilliantly spotted velvet coat similar to that of a leopard, this elusive feline prowls the coasts and roams the lowland rainforests. The “yaguar” – meaning beast that kills with one leap – is well-adapted to its diverse habitats as it agilely and stealthily hunts its prey in trees or water, making it one of the few members of its family tolerant of water.
Integrated into the sacred and secular realms of Mayan Mythology, the jaguar is said to possess the transient ability of moving between worlds because of its comfort both in the trees and the water, the ability to hunt both in the daytime and in the nighttime, as well as the habit of sleeping in caves – places often associated with the “Xibalba”, the underworld.
As of today, an estimated fifteen thousand jaguars remain in the wild, six thousand of which live in Central and North America. Being the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest in the world, a wild jaguar can live between twelve and sixteen years. Adult jaguars are solitary in nature and only come together for a short period of time to breed. The average litter size is one to four cubs that remain with their mothers for two years before seizing their territories. Food availability dictates the size of its territory; in a forest such as the Cockscomb Basin, where its prey base includes deer, fish, peccaries, rodents and tapirs, a jaguar often roams over a territory of about 20 square kilometers of natural habitat.
For more information on how you can interact with Belize’s jaguars, visit the Ultimate Belize Adventure.