If you’ve ever had the opportunity to scuba dive, the area known as the “coral triangle” is a part of our world that offers a panorama of beauty to sate every artist’s palette.
Animal Planet, a unit of Discovery Communications, plans to share a bird’s eye view of the incredible life swirling beneath the waves of our vast oceans. “WILD DEEP” will be presented as a six-part televised documentary with the first episode featuring “The Coral Triangle” debuting on Tuesday, January 22, at 9:00pm ET/PT.
In the Animal Planet WILD DEEP press release they say the documentary will showcase “the amazing wonders and epic beauty that exist in Earth’s seas and oceans.” Their first episode will start “with a deep dive into the waters of the Coral Triangle near Asia.” Subsequent episodes will involve “series dives into the waters surrounding Africa, Europe, Oceania and the Americas to showcase the dramatic, complex universes beneath their waves.”
The Coral Triangle covers 5.7 million square kilometers in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is a roughly shaped triangular region encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.
Each episode of the Animal Planet documentary should be a fascinating adventure, but the Coral Triangle region will definitely be a highlight.
The waters of this area are teeming with vast and extremely diverse life forms. Besides being known as the “coral triangle” it is also called the “Amazon of the seas”, reflecting the great Amazon Basin region which is re-known for the extraordinary beauty and diversity of its own inhabitants.
When we see ocean corals and fish above water, viewed in the full spectrum of light offered by aquariums, photos, or videos, we can see the incredible colors they possess.
Yet under water, the red spectrum of light becomes reduced the deeper you go, and the animals present a much more even palette. A soothing elegance of interconnected color is created beneath the waves. Though not necessarily flamboyant, this natural deep-water setting offers an awesome, yet curiously comforting scene.
The The Coral Triangle Center states that “a full 76 percent of known coral species are found here and 37 percent of reef fish species.” Now that’s a lot of critters! There are extensive mangrove forests in the region. Mangrove swamps grow along coastal regions and have massive root systems that are efficient at dissipating wave energy, so they protect the coastal areas from erosion, storm surges, and tsunamis. But they also provide valuable nursery areas for all sorts of aquatic animals.
The reef areas are also rich in life, with animals ranging from corals and fish to many types of invertebrates and algaes. They offer spawning and breeding grounds too, for whales and dolphins, sea turtles, and huge fisheries. According to the Coral Triangle Center, the life encountered in this region has “sustained sea faring island people for millennia.”
The Center says that today this incredible habitat “is recognized as the global centre of marine biodiversity and a global priority for conservation.” The diversity of these reef are the seeding stock for future coral reefs, and can help “ensure adaptation as our natural communities respond to climate change and other global trends.”
GMA News reports that the Coral Triangle region has been recognized “as an area of acute ecological importance and of great concern by many governments”. Countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands have come together to form ‘The Coral Triangle Initiative’. GMA reports that the Initiative’s purpose is to urgently spread “ideas about sustainable fishing practices” and to set up “marine reserves across the region to ensure pockets of this fragile ecosystem are protected and allowed to thrive.”
Animal-World provides pictures and information on a large selection of Coral Reef Animals and Saltwater fish, along with detailed information on the care necessary to keep them in a marine aquarium or reef tank.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Swarm of carnivorous piranha attacked hundreds of bathers!
Christmas was a very warm day along the Parana River near Rosario, Argentina. Hundreds of city dwellers were trying to escape the 100-degree weather in the cooler waters of a popular beach about 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires. But then, they began to notice bite marks on their hands and feet.
A swarm of carnivorous fish attacked hundreds of bathers, sending around 70 people to local clinics and emergency rooms for treatment.
The local Director of lifeguards, Federico Cornier, told reporters from BBC and other broadcasters in the area “it’s normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great… This is an exceptional event.”
Cornier said that the fish responsible for the attacks were “palometas”, a type of piranha with large sharp teeth. Dozens of people had their extremities attacked. Paramedic Alberto Manino, speaking with the Associated Press, said that some children he had treated had lost entire digits!
The term ‘palometa’ is a common name used for several types of fish. This includes the Piranha, but it is also used for a Caribbean gamefish Trachinotus goodie and a Western Atlantic fish, the Maracaibo Leatherjacket Oligoplites palometa.
The Piranhas belong to a sub-family called the Serrasalminae, or the ‘serrated salmon family’ consisting of around 60 species. The unmistakable trademark features of the Piranha are their triangular, razor sharp teeth. As described in Piranha: Story of the Piranha Fish from Predator to Prey, these teeth enable them to ‘slice off pieces of meat, fins or scales, literally taking apart their prey piece by piece.’
The palometa that attacked these bathers is most likely the Red Piranha Pygocentrus nattereri, also called the Red-bellied Piranha. This is a very widespread species, occurring in several river basins of South American. Although it typically grows between about 3 to 9 1/2 inches (8-24 cm) in length, one specimen was reported at a whooping 19 1/2 inches (50 cm).
Keeping the Red Piranha in the aquarium is truly a fascination. In the wild the Red Piranha lives in large schools. This type of school is not usually possible in an aquarium, but with the proper environment these fish will show some traits of their wild behavior. In nature the largest fish is the ‘alpha’ animal and in the aquarium it is the most aggressive and bold. The alpha fish will dominate the best spaces in the tank and will basically own the feeding ritual. All other members are subordinate and will take on the traits of servants. Any unwilling ‘servants’ will be quickly and aggressively put in their place by the alpha fish!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and animal species write-ups.
Happy Holidays! Wishing you a festive holiday season and a very happy new year!
Our world is filled with so many fascinating creatures – pets, animals and people! Each one has a different path in life, but no matter where we go we find a little of each other.
Peace, love, acceptance and joy are the norm each day for all of earth’s creatures. But for the human species, the holiday season is a special time to reflect and embrace all the beauty of this great earth.
Animal-World Team wishes you a joyous holiday and a new year filled with splendor, hope, and peace!
All Photos included here courtesy Richard Ross
California Academy of Sciences
The Octo Mom pales in comparison to the Florida Keys Coral Spawn
An event that happens just once a year yet results in hundreds of thousands of babies. Imagine have just one such happening to produce all the offspring you could ever want! That’s the annual spawning of Elkhorn, Staghorn and other corals off the Florida Keys.
For just a short period of time each year, by a phase of the moon, thirty thousand coral colonies or more are synced-up and driven to reproduce. This happens in August or September, usually just a few days after a full moon.
Now that type of baby making is enough to stir the envy of any mom, Octo or otherwise! Granted, there’s not the same type of physical interaction mammals have, making babies in the animal world. There’s no dating or marriage, nor ongoing obligations.
Coral parents never actually have sex, nor do the mothers (or fathers) then host and provide sustenance for the developing offspring. Rather corals are sessile invertebrates that spew their gametes (eggs and sperm) into the ocean’s water column in one mass spawning exchange.
Buoyant gamete bundles float about the water column until they meet up with gametes from neighboring colonies. Cross-fertilization, resulting is baby corals, is then a happen stance event.
Coral Spawning, Gamete Bundles
Hundreds of thousands of fertilized gametes quickly evolve into coral planula, which soon becomes free-swimming larvae. A few days later they will begin making their way down to the reef. They will seek a suitable area to on the reef area to settle, attach and form polyps.
These polyps grow into beautiful new coral colonies, expanding the reef.
Coral spawning is a curious event similar to being in an upside down snowstorm. Tons of tiny little flakes begin swirling about. But corals only spawn at night, so to watch this wondrous “dance of the gametes”, it helps to be a scuba diver. It also helps to be experienced in diving at night so that you don’t miss any of this exciting event. This years spawning lasted for 4 consecutive days.
Restoration of Corals in the Florida Keys
The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF), based in the Florida Keys, has been working to restore various threatened coral species. I had an opportunity to see some of their cultured specimens of staghorn corals just a few weeks ago at the SuperZoo trade show. Ken Nedimyer, president of the foundation, was very excited about their ongoing efforts in creating offshore coral nurseries, as well as an onshore lab for studying reproduction.
For this years spawning event, CRF joined with 8 other organizations from across the country. Representatives from Akron Zoo, California Academy of Science, Florida Aquarium, Mystic Seaquarium, NOAA, Seaworld and Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund joined with CRF to provide help and support. 25 people in all worked to collect spawn from the open waters as well as from selected staghorn specimens spawning in their lab.
During a Coral Spawn
You and I, and everyone are invited to volunteer and participate in CRF dive programs to help plant specimens. Although the spawning season has passed until the fall of 2014, the restoration efforts are ongoing. The ultimate goal of CRF is to test the fertilization of selective gametes in an effort to propagate more resistant corals and help ensure their survival.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Join the Annual October 4th Worldwide Celebration of Animals
The 4th of October is a special animal recognition day. This is a day set aside to honor all types of animals across the world; and to also honor all the people who love and respect animals. Let’s all participate in the World Animal Day celebration! There are millions of amazingly wonderful animals and their presence on this beautiful planet enriches our human experience as we journey through life.
World Animal Day started in Florence in 1931, at a convention of ecologists with the original intent to bring attention to endangered or threatened species. The date October 4th was chosen because it is a feast day in honor of Francis of Assisi, who is a historically notable nature lover and patron saint of animals and the environment.
This special day is celebrated in many different ways in every country. Today the celebration and recognition of animals has no regard to nationality, political ideology, religion, or faith. This celebration does not represent any person, organization, or campaign but rather belongs to all of us, everywhere. Churches, synagogues and independent Animal Chaplains hold blessings in parks and fields, while Zoos and other organizations celebrate with simply sharing and recognition.
World Animal Day gives all of us a chance to focus on our individual pets as well as other animals. It’s a day for unity and to help spread animal education. It’s a day to help raise awareness of all animal issues that exist throughout the world.
Today let’s join the world in celebration and begin a journey of increased animal awareness. Start today to learn more about animals, and then about the plight of animals in our modern world. Learn about the species whose survival is threatened, what’s causing the threats, and what can be done. Join others to help keep animals well, and to help improve the standards of animal welfare around the world.
Each of us can do something special to highlight the importance of animals in the world; and honor those who dedicate their lives to animals.
Here are 8 things you can do to celebrate World Animal Day:
- Make animals a part of your conversations. Share what you know about animals. Start by discussing your favorite pets, but expand into animals you’ve seen on a walk in nature, in zoos, aquariums or reserves, or that you’ve simply seen on television.
- Expand your knowledge about animals; it’s an exciting adventure! Take some time to learn about a species that you are aware of, but don’t know much about. Reading is a great way to do this because you’ll get in-depth information and you can see pictures and illustrations too. There are many excellent books available as well as great websites like Animal-World.com to help broaden your horizons. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself discovering even more interesting animals.
- Find the benefits of animals in nature, and share them! Try topics like bees cross-pollinating our flowers resulting in important foods, or the different types of predation that keeps the natural world in balance.
- Share the wonderful aspects of animal ownership on all levels. You can help dispel the negatively held beliefs about specific breeds and animals. Discuss children connecting to the animal world with that first lizard, or the invaluable benefits to the disabled and elderly that an assortment of small animals that can add like a bunny, small singing finch, or a small lap dog!
- Make your outdoor home environment animal friendly. You can put up bird feeders and birdbaths. You can also plant flowers that attract helpful insects like butterflies, bees and ladybugs.
- Visit an animal shelter, veterinarian, animal charity, or animal rehabilitation center. Find out what types of problems animals in your area face, both domestic and wild animals. Find out what solutions are available. Learn about strays and pet adoption options. Also learn about endangered species around your community or in your state.
- Monetary donations as well as product donations are always welcome at shelters and animal care facilities. Just be sure to check with them first so you can provide items they can use.
- Volunteering is a great way to get involved. There are many types of animal care facilities that welcome volunteers. Shelters and charities are the no-brainers followed by zoos and living museum type facilities. But think outside the box, because any facility that provides care for animals will often welcome help including pet stores, veterinarians, animal boarding facilities, retirement homes, and even schools.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
Rescued sea turtles rehabilitated and returned home
Sea turtle rescues and releases are such an exciting adventure for people, perhaps because we are mostly land dwellers.
Yet it warms my heart, and I’m sure yours too, to learn about any type of pet and animal rescue.
The warmth and caring of people, for all the creatures in the animal world, never ceases to amaze me!
South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program
On a sunny September 13th, after treatment and revitalization at the “Sea Turtle Hospital” of the South Carolina Aquarium, four beautiful sea turtles were returned to their vast watery home. Parker, Dennis, Crosby and Skully were released at the Isle of Palms County Park, sent to rejoin with their cronies in the Atlantic Ocean.
At the season’s change, as the weather warms, sea turtles begin to move into the coastal waters. They are a threatened and endangered species, and are affected by the many pressing issues surrounding coastal development. Specimens can end up in a state of distress, injured, or sick. A caring individual will rescue them and see to it that the animal is delivered into the hands of the dedicated employees and volunteers at a rescue facility, like the South Carolina Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program. There they are monitored and treated until they are well enough to be re-introduced into their natural habitat.
Four sea turtles released in September, 2013
Parker was a 5-pound juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle that was accidentally ensnared in a recreational fisherman’s net at the Myrtle Beach State Park Pier in June.
Dennis, another juvenile Kemp’s Ridley, had been rescued as a “cold stunned” turtle last winter. Crosby is a 9-pound juvenile green sea turtle that was found in April floating on the Folly River. Dennis was one of over 30 sea turtles that had been treated for cold-stunning in various rescue facilities.
The biggest of the group is Skully, a 70-pound juvenile Loggerhead. He was found in June, stranded on a sandbar.
The South Carolina Aquarium’s first beach releases for 2013 started with 5 specimens on May 23rd, consisting of a Kemp’s Ridley, 2 Loggerheads and 2 Green Sea Turtles.
On July 31st at the same place 3 sea turtle’s were released; Sutton, another juvenile Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, Raker another green sea turtle, and Splinter who’s a Loggerhead sea turtle.
Another seven sea turtles were released a month earlier on June 18th.
Prior to that, the South Carolina Aquarium participated in the Sea Turtle Trek for Florida Release held on April 12th.
They contributed two sea turtles to the Sea Turtle Trek, a 65-pound Loggerhead and a Green Sea Turtle. They joined with the New England Aquarium and the National Aquarium in Baltimore to release a total of 52 sea turtles into the ocean. The 52 turtles were loaded onto the US Coast Guard Cutter Fort Macon and transported to the Gulf Stream where they were released.
When you are out and about, keep a watchful eye out for sea turtles in distress. Depending on the local rules and regulations, you can either call the local authorities or rescues to come get the animal, or if allowed, you may be able to rescue the animal and transport it to a facility.
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.
“Pet’s Point of View” Animal World Perspective of SuperZoo 2013!
From a Pet’s Point of View, SuperZoo is great! For humans it is very cool too, and necessary to keep the industry humming along. But animals just have a simpler perspective, and its one that Dr. Jungle and I found simply enchanting.
Business and pleasure go hand in hand, but the best reasons to attend pet shows are all the awesome animals! Now don’t get me wrong. I like to see cool new animal habitats, futuristic aquariums, great new toys, nutritious foods and yummy treats as well. But without the animals, what’s the point?
Now at the show, just like us humans, animals too like cool habitats and they especially like food. But Dr. Jungle and I found that they spent most of their time simply hanging out watching the other pets, and of course the human animals too.
Types of Pet Shows
SuperZoo is a production of the World Pet Association (WPA). Being an industry trade show it is not open to the general public. It consists primarily of displays by manufacturers and distributors to exhibit their pet products. Retailers then peruse the displays to become familiar with the latest offerings and select items to sell in their pet stores. Some other types of shows are for pet groomers or pet breeders. These will also has displays, but as their names suggest, they cater to particular pet industry professionals.
Some of the best types of pet shows are those that are open to everyone. The “America’s Family Pet Expo”, also a production of WPA, is one of the largest and is held annually in Orange County California. This type of show that has displays too. But it differs in that its exhibitions are by retailers offering both pets and pet products to the general public.
Types of Pets at SuperZoo
All types of animals were represented at the SuperZoo show. Usual pets included aquatic animals ranging from the hardy saltwater clownfish and damsels to freshwater tetras, barbs, bettas, all sorts of fancy goldfish, and even corals. Birds, small animals, and reptile categories were well represented too. Unique pets popped up all over too, including fascinating hybrids and mutations of regular pets as well as new and unusual species.
One of the most interesting were the exciting and popular newcomers… the “glofish”. These genetically enhanced freshwater fish are mostly barbs, tetras, and danios that sport a fluorescent glow in bright greens, reds, yellows, blues, and purples. Picasso patterned clownfish and really cool king/milk/corn snake crosses were some of the most striking looking, while some of the most unusual were the skinny (hairless) rats. Unique pets ranged from puffer fish that are a completely freshwater species (Mbu Puffer Tetraodon mbu) to some first time US imported animals like large spotted plecostomus (Hypostomus regain), and multiple varieties of brilliant tarantulas.
Dog Grooming and Competition
With all those good looking animals hanging out there’s bound to be competition, and it is tough. All types of pets adore attention but here the dogs rule! Getting spruced up with the groomers is a big pastime, sometimes taking up to two hours or more! We saw dogs decked out in all their natural glory, and many dogs decked out with “creative” colors and cuts.
This was a great show! At such an exhibition I think a pet’s perspective is the opportunity to stand out. What they want to know is “how do I steal the show”! Even thought there are only a few first place winners, I must say, the results were well worth it! Many of these awesome animals will soon be available to people and you can find the pet that’s your “first place” winner! Check with your local pet stores or find one of these dedicated, incredible breeders.
A Baby Hooded Seal
Recently more Harp and Hooded seals than usual have been found stranded along the East Coast of the United States as far south as the Carolinas and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These stranded seals should have migrated much farther north by this time of year. A recent study indicates the problem is in part due to the decline in ice cover.
The Harp Seal Pagophilus groenlandicus, also known as the Saddleback Seal, lives in the north Atlantic Ocean and the Artic Ocean. Their scientific name translates to “ice-lover from Greenland,” and they really do love ice! Having a thick layer of blubber and efficient flippers which they can use as heat exchangers, they can efficiently regulate their temperature on ice and in extremely cold water. They have all-black eyes with grayish-silver bodies. Adult harp seals can weigh from 300-400 pounds.
The Hooded Seal Cystophora cristata is also found primarily in the North Atlantic Ocean. They are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. What stands out on these seals is a bulge on the males heads which develops around four years of age. This bulge is actually an inflated air sac or “hood” above their noses and is used in mating rituals. Adult males can weigh up to 900 pounds! That’s a big seal!
In general, these seals reproduce in the spring on huge masses of ice. As spring turns to summer the seals begin to migrate North. It is believed that a seals sight is very helpful in helping it navigate, making vision one of their most important senses.
Increasing numbers of Hooded Seals are being found dead or unhealthy on beaches further south than where they should be. Usually around 25 to 35 stranded seals are found on the Northeast Coast, however this year a total of 55 stranded seals have been found in both the Northeast and Southeast coasts combined. According to biologist Ulrika Malone, the seals are found dehydrated, sunburned, and suffering from heat exhaustion and hair loss. The ones that are alive are taken into rehabilitation centers by wildlife officials. The seals are nursed back to health and then released back into the wild.
A recent study published in the PLOS ONE journal confirms the theory that receding ice levels are at least partially to blame for more seals being found stranded. Most of the stranded seals are young, with 62% of them being male. It is thought that the majority are males because of their tendency to wander further away once they head off by themselves. Genetic issues, such as inbreeding, were mostly excluded as reasons. It was found that the stranded seals were just as genetically diverse as seals which were not stranded.
Sea ice is a prominent part of seal life and reproduction. Every spring (March-April) the seals reproduce on the ice drifts. The mothers nurse the young for a short time before they are left on their own to start their journey north. In the past 30 years ice cover in April has declined about 8%, which is significant. Researchers believe this affects the seals because there isn’t enough space on the ice for all the new young seals. Some of the babies may then be forced into the water prematurely and become confused as to which direction they should go. They may follow large groups of fish moving south instead of north and completely lose their way.
If the amount of sea ice continues to decline, it could cause serious problems for many types of seals, especially the ones who use the ice masses to reproduce. In fact, Ringed Seals and Bearded Seals are already listed as threatened species due to this decline in ice cover.
Should we be concerned with ice cover decline? What do you think?
Do you dread the Fourth of July for fear of how your pet will react to loud noises and bright lights?
Many people can attest to having their dogs and cats go bonkers while fireworks are going off, and then having to deal with the “damage” afterwards. In addition to having a scared or injured dog or ruined furniture and broken windows, there are other, less obvious hazards to watch out for this July 4th.
Keeping your Pet Safe
1. Keep them away from the noise. This is probably the most important thing you can do for your pet. The best idea is to keep them indoors in a familiar and safe place. Close all doors and windows to reduce noise. Consider even turning on music or television to keep things feeling normal to them. Don’t bring them to festivals where there will be lots of other people and fireworks going on. This will also prevent them from running away or getting lost. Fact: Did you know that after the 4th of July, there is a 30% increase in lost pets? That’s scary! Do what you can to prevent losing yours!
2. Don’t let them near fireworks You may get a great YouTube video, but the risk is not worth it. Not only can your pet become burned or otherwise injured by getting too close to the fireworks, they can also suffer serious internal damage from eating them. If you do decide to let your dog outside while letting off fireworks, it is advisable to keep them on a leash and far away from where the fireworks are being stored and let off.
3. Keep them away from other pets. This is especially true if you will be celebrating with other people who will have their pets around. Fireworks can make your dog on edge and be more prone to getting in fights with other dogs. This can result in injury or even death for your dog.
4. Keep non-pet items out of reach! This includes alcohol, lighter fluid and matches, oils, and anything else that could be hazardous if ingested. Many animals are poisoned or injured from ingesting chemicals.
5. Don’t use non-animal approved items on your pet. Many people like to dress their pets up on holidays. This can be fun and safe! However, don’t put items on them such as glow sticks which could be harmful to their health if ingested. Likewise, don’t put substances which are safe for human use, such as sunscreen, on pets. This is because they could lick and groom themselves and ingest the substance. This is not good for your pet!
6. Don’t give your pet human food! Just because you are eating barbecued hot dogs and s’mores doesn’t mean your pet should! It can be tempting to “celebrate” with your pet by allowing them to eat unhealthy human food. But this is just plain unhealthy for pets and could cause bigger health problems for them.
7. Consider using anti-anxiety medication. If you know that your pet is one of those who becomes terrified with 4th of July fireworks, it might be a good idea to plan on giving him some anti-anxiety medication to help him get through it.
8. Act normal! Signs that your pet is feeling anxious and scared include them howling, shaking, running around frantically, and trying to hide. If your pet is obviously having a hard time, remember to act normal around them. Show them you aren’t scared by petting them, talking soothingly to them, etc. If they see you acting normal and unafraid, it will help them to calm down.
What are some experiences and tips you have to share on keeping your pet safe and healthy this 4th of July?
The Jaguar Panthera onca
The jaguar gets its name from an old Latin American word ‘yaguar’ which means ‘he who kills with one leap’. This refers to the fact that they kill their prey quickly, sometimes instantaneously with only one bite. They are at the top of the food chain, and are vulnerable only to Anacondas or Caimans when young. Jaguars are very large exotic cats. In fact, they are the largest cats that inhabit North, South, and Central America! They are the third largest cat species in the world, being smaller only than tigers and lions.
It is believed that jaguars will become endangered if conservation efforts are not undertaken soon. Right now, they are listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) Red List.
The Jaguar Panthera onca is one of several large cats belonging to the Panthera genus. Other commonly known cats in this genus are lions, tigers, and leopards. The Jaguar and the Leopard look very similar and it can be hard to tell apart. The Jaguar is the only one living in the Western hemisphere however. So if you run into a large spotted cat in North America, you can be sure it is a jaguar and not a leopard!
Jaguars can reach 350 pounds, 6.5 feet in length (excluding their tail), and 2.5 feet in height. Being great swimmers and loving water, these cats usually prefer humid environments, such as rainforests and swamplands. However they can also be found on grasslands and in drier forests. An Interesting Fact: Jaguars have very strong jaws! Even for large cats, these guys have quite the bite. This enables them to easily and effectively kill their prey. These powerful jaws are also useful in piercing the shells of reptiles, such as tortoises and alligators. They are carnivores and their diet consists of just about any animal they can get their jaws on. Larger prey is usually preferred if available, however. Jaguars are solitary creatures as adults and spend most of their time in territory they have staked out for themselves.
Concern for Jaguars is steadily increasing. Three main problems are the cause of declining Jaguar populations.
1. Their natural habitats are shrinking. This is mostly due to fragmentation of their environments. As deforestation happens more and more to create room for agriculture and homes, and more major highways are constructed, the jaguars’ homes are compromised. They are no longer able to travel over large areas or breed as effectively because their access to other jaguars are restricted. This also leads to not as much diversification in the gene pool. In the United States, most Jaguars are already gone. However, there is believed to be a breeding population in Southern Arizona. In 1995, Jaguars became protected under the Endangered Species Act in order to stop people from shooting them for their pelts.
2. Their supply of natural prey is shrinking. People hunt many of their prey animals, such as deer and pigs, which reduces their availability to the cats. The prey animals are also losing their habitats, for much the same reasons as the jaguars are.
3. Jaguars are being killed by people. The reasons vary, from farmers/ranchers killing them for preying on their livestock, to Jaguars being deliberately poached to sell their pelts for profit. But these deliberate acts of killing jaguars are contributing to their decline.
Some organizations have recognized a need to project large cats everywhere and have taken steps to set up programs to do just that. One such organization, Panthera, has set up a program called the Jaguar Corridor Initiative. The primary purpose of this Initiative is to provide “corridors” or protected areas through human developments to connect one wild area to another. These corridors can be through a variety of different areas. Agriculture plantations, ranches, and people’s personal properties can all act as corridors. So far, this program seems to be producing positive results. Jaguars are able to safely pass through developed areas to hunt, breed, and live.
Panthera has another program, the Pantanal Jaguar Project. This one primarily focuses on educating local farmers and ranchers who reside in the Pantanal flood lands to help them reduce conflicts between the Jaguars and the cattle. This theoretically helps reduce the rates at which the cats are killed. Panthera is working with many of the South and Central American governments to monitor Jaguar populations and take motions to conserve them. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Preserve was opened in 1986 in Belize with the help of its government. This sanctuary helps protect around 200 Jaguars who live in the area.
Jaguars, like all large wild cats, are part of this world and help keep our ecosystems in check. There is great benefit in making sure they are protected and do not go extinct!
1. Kollus, Brad. “Corridor to the Future.” Cat Fancy March 2013: 28-29. Print.