Jaguars in Mexico are on the rise, a promising sign that national conservation strategies are working


  • The first surveys to count jaguars in Mexico revealed a 20% increase in the population from 2010 to 2018, up to 4,800 animals.
  • Conservation strategies targeted the most pressing threats to jaguars and prioritized the protection of wildlife sanctuaries and natural corridors.
  • The Mexican National Alliance for the Conservation of the Jaguar has brought together the government, people living near protected areas and the private sector in conservation plans for the iconic species.

Mexico’s jaguar population increased by around 800 animals from 2010 to 2018, according to the first two censuses of the elusive carnivores ever taken in the country. The news confirms that Mexico’s national strategy to protect jaguars is working, researchers recently reported in the journal PLOS A.

“It was amazing to see jaguars in so many places where there were none before,” said environmentalist Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, founder of the Mexican National Alliance for jaguar conservation and lead author of the article.

Jaguar drinking in a river in Mexico. Photo credit: Gerardo Ceballos

The Jaguar (Panthera onca), listed by IUCN as Near Threatened, extends from northern Mexico to Central America, the Amazon Basin and northern Argentina. Conservationists had never properly counted jaguars in Mexico before, making it difficult to design a conservation program in the iconic cat’s northernmost ranges. The alliance created by Ceballos and his colleagues used the results of the first Mexican jaguar census in 2010 to create a national strategy endorsed by government policies and scientists.

“This [paper] is very important, ”said jaguar researcher Ronaldo Gonçalves.

Morato, director of the National Predator Center of the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade in Brazil. He did not participate in the study. “They link science to conservation plans. This can be a good model for researchers, not only with jaguars, but also with any other big cats or other critically endangered species.

Jaguar Census Map: current geographic range of the jaguar (Panthera onca) in Mexico (blue, Ceballos et al. 2018) and records for the past 20 years.
Jaguar Census Map: current geographic range of the jaguar (Panthera onca) in Mexico (blue, Ceballos et al. 2018) and records for the past 20 years. Credit: Ceballos G et al 2021

Ceballos and a team of 20 conservationists across the country collected data from camera traps to determine where jaguars lived and how many roamed each of the country’s protected conservation regions. Then they created a plan to tackle the most critical issues affecting Mexico’s jaguars: preserving wildlife corridors and sanctuaries; advocate for useful laws and public policies; and avoid or resolve conflicts with livestock owners.

For example, the government paid people living near protected areas not to deforest sanctuaries, compensated them for livestock losses due to jaguar predation, and provided electric fences to keep jaguars from falling. kill cattle. The efforts on the ground have paid off.

“Local people have been critical,” Ceballos told Mongabay. “When they have the funding and the incentives to protect the forest, they become the most important ally. “

Two jaguars by a river in Mexico.  Photo credit: Gerardo Ceballos
Two jaguars by a river in Mexico. Photo credit: Gerardo Ceballos

Ceballos expected jaguar populations to stay the same or decline between 2010 and 2018. Instead, estimated numbers increased by 20%, from around 4,000 to 4,800 animals. Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is home to around 2,000 jaguars, with others distributed throughout the country’s coastal and inland habitats. Brazil is now home to the largest continuous habitat of jaguars, with an estimated population of over 10,000 individuals.

Going forward, the National Alliance for Jaguar Conservation will focus on key threats, especially conflict with humans and habitat loss.

Morato notes that other wildlife and ecosystems will benefit from these efforts.

“The jaguar is an umbrella species,” Morato told Mongabay. “They need a large area, so if we are to protect a viable population of jaguars with at least 50 individuals, we will have many other protected species. [within that area]. “

In 2022, the Mexican government and the National Alliance for the Conservation of the Jaguar plan to expand the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the southern Yucatan Peninsula from 723,185 hectares to over 1.3 million hectares of land. , making Calakmul the largest protected tropical forest north of the Orinoco River. all motivated by the conservation of the jaguar.

“It’s very unusual for scientists to be able to do all of these things: research, awareness, conservation and public policy,” Ceballos said. “And in Mexico, we were able to do it. “

Header image: Jaguar in a river in Mexico. Photo credit: Gerardo Ceballos


Ceballos G, Zarza H, González-Maya JF, de la Torre JA, Arias-Alzate A, Alcerreca C, et al. (2021) Beyond Words: From Jaguar Population Trends to Conservation and Public Policy in Mexico. PLoS A 16 (10): e0255555.

Guananí Gómez-Van Cortright is a graduate student in the Science Communication program at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Other Mongabay stories produced by UCSC students can be found here.

Animals, Big cats, Biodiversity, Carnivores, Cats, Conservation, Conservation solutions, Environment, Green, Happy environment, Jaguars, Mammals, Protected areas, UCSC, Fauna

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