The only documented wild jaguar in the US has been caught on camera in a series of video clips that could offer vital clues to keeping the North American big cat population alive.
Known as “El Jefe”, the adult male was recorded by a series of cameras using remote sensors in the south-eastern mountain ranges of Arizona.
Experts at the Center for Biological Diversity said that while the presence of jaguars and ocelots has “always” been documented in Arizona, “El Jefe” was currently the only verified wild jaguar in the whole of the US.
He has been photographed on a number of occasions in the past few years, but this was the first time video footage of him has ever been released.
Jaguar conservation remains a sensitive issue in Arizona, with the last verified wild female in the country shot by a hunter in 1963. The only other documented male in recent years, Macho B, had to be put down as a result of “capture-related injuries” in March 2009.
Chris Bugbee, a biologist with the Conservation CATalyst group which released the video in collaboration with the centre, said: “Studying these elusive cats anywhere is extremely difficult, but following the only known individual in the US is especially challenging.
“These glimpses into his behaviour offer the keys to unlocking the mysteries of these cryptic cats. Every new piece of information is important for conserving northern jaguars and we look forward to building upon on these data so that we can collectively make better decisions on how to manage these fascinating and endangered cats.”
El Jefe’s home is currently under threat, conservationists say, because a Canadian mining company is pushing to develop a copper mine in the heart of the Santa Rita Mountains.
“Just knowing that this amazing cat is right out there, just 25 miles from downtown Tucson, is a big thrill,” said the centre’s Randy Serraglio. “El Jefe has been living more or less in our backyard for more than three years now. It’s our job to make sure that his home is protected and he can get what he needs to survive.”
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