On video, the United States’ only jaguar is a graceful presence. He pads through the forest of Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains, sunlight dappling his spotted coat. The phrase “charismatic megafauna” never seemed so apt.
After the release of this jaguar video by two conservation organizations in early February, El Jefe the jaguar became a national name (he’s been well-known around Tucson for more than three years). But this glimpse of the great cat is only the tip of an enormous iceberg of history for jaguars in the United States. Once driven out of the United States by hunting and ranching, jaguars are now in the eye of a more sympathetic public. But there is debate over the protections they need from threats like copper mines and border walls, and bad blood between the groups responsible for conserving these cats.
“If the U.S., with all our resources and expertise, can’t protect a single known jaguar, then what hope do we have in all of these developing countries?” said Aletris Neils, the founder of Conservation CATalyst, a conservation organization that jointly released the El Jefe videos with the Center for Biological Diversity. [See Stunning Photos of Jaguars in the Wild]