Curious jaguar behind green leaves


Jaguars (Panthera Onca) are the only big cats living in America and the third-largest cat in the world after tigers and lions. They belong to the Felidae family and often are mistaken for leopards due to their similar coat pattern. But Jaguars have a stockier build than their African kin, and their black spots have dots in the middle.

Jaguars also can appear as black-on-black colored (melanistic) cats, and there have even been sightings of albino individuals ( Solid black jaguars (and leopards, which can also be melanistic) are also known as ‘Black Panthers”.

This wildcat’s lifespan in the wild is 12-15 years, although they can live for up to 20 years in captivity. Female jaguars usually give birth to two cubs, although they can have up to four. After one year, the cubs are able to hunt for themselves but will stay with their mother for one more year. After two years, the juvenile jaguars will leave their mother’s side and claim their own territory.


What do Jaguars eat?

Jaguars are excellent hunters and have a wide range of prey, including sloths, reptiles, tapirs, deer, and fish. Unlike many felines, jaguars are not afraid of water and are actually good swimmers. They stalk their prey and kill it with a powerful bite. In fact, that is where the name jaguar comes from. ‘Yaguar’ means ‘the one who kills his prey in a single strike’. Wildcats are also excellent climbers and can drag their prey up trees, even when their prey is much larger than them.

How big are Jaguars?

Jaguars, America’s largest cat, can get up to 6 feet long (head and body), with an additional tail length of around 30 inches. They have a heavy body and stocky limbs, which helps them move smoothly between the trees of the forest. These felines weigh between 100 and 250 pounds, with females usually being smaller and lighter than males.

Interesting Jaguar facts

Some ancient American cultures believed that jaguars could move between worlds, as they live both on the ground and on the trees. The Mayans even worshipped them as gods of the underworld. Jaguars are still a symbol of strength and ferocity.

Where do Jaguars hunt?

Jaguars are very versatile hunters: they can hunt on land, in the water, or even in the trees. The rainforests they roam in provide plenty of cover for stalking prey. Like most cats, jaguars can see in the night, but they hunt during the daytime as well. When hunting, these wildcats can cross distances of more than six miles in a single night.

Jaguars in need

Jaguars are terrestrial and solitary and mark their territories with claw or scent marks. But due to deforestation, their territory is constantly shrinking. It is thought that about 15,000 jaguars remain in the wild, but the number is decreasing. They appear as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, and have lost nearly half their geographic range. Deforestation also affects the jaguar’s prey, making it harder for them to find food.

Other threats include illegal hunting and intentional killing of jaguars by farmers, as they prey on their livestock due to lack of natural prey. Though they are protected on a national level, these big cats are still hunted for their pelts and claws.

Jaguars In Need

Though they are protected on a national level, these big cats are still hunted for their pelts and claws.

You can do more to help

Donate now to help protect jaguars from poachers.
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Where do Jaguars live in the wild?

Jaguars live in tropical forests, savannahs, or wetlands. These big cats can be found in 14 countries in South- and Central America, with most of them living in the Amazonas rainforest. But some of them also make their home in the forests of Costa Rica. As they are shy cats and avoid humans, it is rather unlikely to spot them in the wild.

Where to see Jaguars in Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, per appear mainly in the local forests, but there have also been sightings in the Talamanca Mountains.  The coastal national parks provide another chance of spotting the animal, for example, the Corcovado National Park, where some Jaguars roam.

Jaguars at Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center

Another place where jaguars can be found- with a much higher chance of actually getting to see one- is the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center.

Rescate Wildlife Rescue Centers currently provides life-time care for one male jaguar, “Guapo”. Guapo is a very active big cat and eats roughly 2 kilograms of meat per day. It costs approximately $250 per month to feed Guapo.

If you want to see a jaguar and help the animals at the same time, come and visit the Rescate Wildlife Rescue Center in Costa Rica. Not only do you have a chance to see this fantastic animal, but your visit also helps maintain the center and the care for the animals.

Even if you can’t make it to the Lifetime Care Sanctuary for a visit, you can still help the Rescue Wildlife- and the jaguars – with a donation. This helps to cover the costs needed to take care of Guapo, the stunning male jaguar who is being provided with lifetime care in the Rescue Center’s wildlife sanctuary. You can also volunteer to help animals like Guapo, who live in our Lifetime Care Sanctuary, to make their lives more fulfilling, exciting, and comfortable.


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Would you like to get involved yourself?

Become an Intern and have a unique wildlife experience.

Veterinary Internship

Veterinary interns work directly with our highly experienced veterinarian and our rehabilitation staff. You will assist with with animal intakes, exams, treatments, surgeries, feeding and record keeping.

Wildlife Internship​

Work hands-on in the Lifetime Care Sanctuary, Endangered Species Breeding Center and the Rescue Center, feeding animals, conducting behavioral research, and creating enriching experiences for our non-releasable animals or even clicker train our Jaguar „Guapo“.

Road to freedom Internship

This internship gives you the unique opportunity to not only see, but to play an active part in what we call: The Road to Freedom. Aid the animals in their release, monitor and research them and their second chance at life in the wild, the final step on their Road to Freedom.

Alajuela, COSTA RICA