WCS North America


The jaguar has captured the human imagination for ages. In some cultures, it was believed that shamans could transform into jaguars. The ancient Mayans believed the big cat’s spotted coat represented the night sky. People of the Amazon saw in the jaguar’s shiny, reflective eyes proof of its connection to the spiritual world.

Despite this potent symbolism, humans have directly killed jaguars, depleted their prey, and destroyed their habitat. The result has been a nearly 50 percent reduction in the geographical range of jaguars in the last 100 years. In contemporary times, jaguar populations are found in scattered regions between Northern Argentina and Northern Mexico, but some people imagine jaguar reoccupying its entire historic range: from Southern Argentina to the Southwestern United States. In the Southwestern U.S., this is now more than just a dream: today, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is applying decades of field experience protecting jaguars in South and Central America to inform and assist with the recovery of this wild cat in Arizona and New Mexico.


WCS scientists have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to guide efforts to recover jaguars in Arizona and New Mexico. Having implemented projects to protect jaguars and people living with jaguars in 11 Latin American countries, WCS brings an array of expertise and understanding to the FWS process of establishing recovery plans for jaguars in the Southwestern U.S.

WCS’s Jaguar Conservation Program (JCP) establishes priorities for jaguar conservation and advances this work through partnerships with national protected areas, wildlife agency personnel, and local people (ranchers, rural communities, indigenous associations). The JCP emphasizes education and training, field evaluations of jaguar and prey status, and planning for the future.

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Key Staff

Jon Beckmann
Connectivity Initiative Coordinator
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