Global jaguar population — 173,000 individuals or 15,000

How many jaguars (Panthera onca) in the world? There are two answers to this question with a vast variation in numbers. A research claims there are 173,000 individuals, mostly concentrated in the Amazon Basin, whereas conservation groups estimate there are only 15,000 wild jaguars left.

A study published in PLOS ONE by J?drzejewski et al there are 173,000 jaguars in the wld globally. It says based on published density estimates obtained through camera trapping, presence/absence data, and globally available predictive variables derived from satellite imagery, we modelled density and occurrence of a large carnivore, the jaguar, across the species’ entire range. We then combined these models in a hierarchical framework to estimate the total population. We estimated the world’s jaguar population at 173,000 (95% CI: 138,000–208,000) individuals, mostly concentrated in the Amazon Basin; elsewhere, populations tend to be small and fragmented. The high number of jaguars results from the large total area still occupied (almost 9 million km2) and low human densities (< 1 person/km2) coinciding with high primary productivity in the core area of jaguar range. It says the probability of jaguar occurrence was slightly higher in North America than in South America.

Jaguar population size

Applying hierarchical model to jaguar dataset resulted in a mean posterior estimate of 173,151 jaguars (95% CI: 138,148–208,137) within the current range of the species (8.968 million km2). Similarly, calculated the population size for each country in jaguar range. Brazil may possess half of the world’s jaguar population (approx. 86,800), followed by Peru with as many as 22,200. In North America, Mexico is expected to contain the largest population with a mean estimate of approximately 4,300 jaguars. We predicted a population approaching 0 (95% CI 0–4) for the Sonoran region of the United States where single animals were recently observed.

For comparison, we also estimated the current potential population size across the entire historical range of jaguar (approx. 17,758,200 km2), assuming that in future jaguars may recolonize some potentially suitable areas outside of their current range. Our model estimated 204,650 jaguars (95% CI: 163,742–246,691), suggesting a potential increase of 18% if expansion occurs outside of current range. Finally, we estimated a population of 77,364 jaguars (95% CI: 62,090–92,951) inside protected areas within current range (approx. 3,493,000 km2), where presumably jaguars have the highest protection and therefore the greatest chance of persistence.

Jaguar population numbers

Estimate of total jaguar population, approximately 173,000, was greater than may be expected by many researchers. This estimate may be influenced by the large area (approximately 9 million km2) that is still inhabited by jaguars. A large proportion of our estimate was attributed to the forested areas of the Amazon basin, which were characterized by relatively high probabilities of jaguar occurrence and moderate to high densities. In most of this forested area, human population densities are low (< 1 person/km2). In such conditions hunting usually has no measurable effect on populations of jaguars and their prey base and jaguars have a high ability to persist, unless deforestation and cattle operations are introduced. However, rates of jaguar extirpations continue to increase, mainly due to habitat alteration. During the last 100 years, the range of this species in South America has been reduced to approximately half of its historical distribution. Despite its legal protection in all countries, jaguar populations continue to decline. Outside the Amazon basin, jaguar populations are small and highly fragmented.

Study says our results are also supported by independent studies conducted at smaller scales. Sollmann et al. estimated 52,000 jaguars in the protected areas of Brazil–compared to 46,391 by our study (95% CI: 35,702–56,361. Based on camera trapping at 16 sites across Mexico, Chávez et al. estimated a total population between 4,000 and 5,000 for the country. Our model predicted 4,343 (95% CI: 3,400–5,383) jaguars for Mexico. Further, Paviolo et al. estimated a jaguar population in the Atlantic Forest (Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina) at 150–300 individuals; our model predicts 336 (95% CI: 136–575) for the same region (approximately 62,400 km2). Thus, our results are similar to the prior estimates provided by local studies and our credible intervals contain all those estimates. Alternatively, De la Torre et al. recently estimated the total jaguar population at 64,000 individuals.

Today the wide-ranging jaguar (Panthera onca), which once lived throughout South America and north into the U.S., is considered a threatened species. Conservation groups estimate there are only 15,000 wild jaguars left, mostly due to poaching and deforestation.

As Rony García-Anleu, director of the biological research department for the Wildlife Conservation Society in Guatemala (WCS) explains, the boundaries between countries are important for humans, but they don’t exist for animals. Jaguars require vast barrier-free land and don’t care about man-marked territories. While females stay in one area, males roam across continents in search of food and mates. They crisscross borders throughout the Americas, traveling as far south as Argentina and as far north as Arizona and New Mexico in the U.S.

Human vs. Jaguar

Drug traffickers “use the jungle like a shield,” said García-Anleu, explaining that criminals set ablaze swaths of forests to clear land for private airstrips. WCS estimates there are now 10,000 people settled in Laguna del Tigre National Park and 15,000 in Sierra del Lacandon National Park. All of this growth and crime has hurt the local wildlife. (PLOS ONE and EcoWatch)