photo M. Noonan

Among the most elusive of Costa Rican rainforest species is the jaguar; the largest and most powerful of the American members of the cat family. An adult jaguar may reach more than 7 ft. long, weigh up to 200 lbs., and stand 2 ft. at the shoulders.

The jaguar is the keystone predator of the rainforest, it serves to regulate the population of other species, such as the agouti, so that a balance is maintained. Without the jaguar, populations of other animals may explode and strip the forest of its vegetation. These solitary predators generally live within circular territories about 3 miles in diameter, hunting for food on the forest floor, in the trees, and even in the water.

photo M. Noonan

Throughout their range, jaguars are considered to be endangered. In Costa Rica, they are already considered to be among the "living dead." This means that their population is too thinly spread and lacks the huge amounts of land needed to sustain viable numbers. Sadly, it seems that in a few short years, no jaguar may be found in the entire nation of Costa Rica at all.


CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.