The Riviera Maya and Yucatan are known best for their white sand beaches, turquoise waters, all-inclusive resorts, and Mayan culture, but there is one more thing that makes this destination one of the best in the world. Yucatan is home to one of the most interesting and beautiful creatures in the world; the daring Jaguars.
All About Jaguars
In Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the unique Jaguar Panthera Onca, the largest cat in North America, calls the lush jungle home. They tend to spend their time away from more developed areas, these wild cats sleep, hunt, and breed away from visitors’ sight. In recent studies, there are about 4800 Jaguars in Mexico and 1800 in the Yucatan Peninsula. The largest and most famous big cat in Mexico is the Jaguar, or as the Maya call this majestic feline, Balam.
After the tiger and the lion, the Jaguar is the third biggest cat in the entire world. They are typically between 155 cm and 1085 cm long, and the tale can have a length of anywhere between 70 and 90 cm. Panthera Onca Jaguars can range in color from a pale yellow to a darker, reddish-brown with characteristic black spots around the body.
Male Jaguars vs. Female Jaguars
The biggest difference between the male and female jaguars is their size. Males can weigh up to 100 kg and females around 76 kg. Males also tend not to shy away from roads and venture into different areas to look for food and other locations to settle down. The females prefer staying in a tall forest away from any kind of human settlement. Male Jaguars have vast territories that overlap with multiple females’ smaller territories. There may be competition to mate with the female, and a dominant male will drive away a more minor or subordinate male.
Did you know that a jaguar can run up to 80 km/h or 50 mph?
The Life of a Jaguar in the Yucatan Peninsula
The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is a biosphere reserve in the Yucatan Peninsula, and it’s also home to many jaguars. It’s an ideal location for these wild cats as the reserve boasts diverse landscapes and ecosystems such as:
- Semi-evergreen forest
- Coastal dune vegetation
- Coastal lagoons
Alongside the region’s unique biodiversity, Jaguars can also maintain their diet due to it being home to many different species of animals. Jaguars in Mexico tend to eat anything that they can catch, but more specifically, deer, snakes, crocodiles, monkeys, turtles, frogs, eggs, and fish.
Jaguars in North America
It’s not known to many, but these giant cats in North America used to be found in places like Arizona in the United States before hunters exterminated them. Jaguars may seem like terrifying animals, but they are great for the environment. They help maintain species diversity by controlling prey numbers and competing with smaller carnivores. That is why many are so happy to see that a breeding population just south of the border in Sonora, Mexico, is working. There is an increase of these wild cats crossing the Mexico border and reclaiming their territory in southern Arizona.
Did you know that the panther and the Jaguar are part of the same species? The only difference is their color.
Jaguars and the Mayan Culture
This species has been a part of the Mayan Culture for centuries, and it’s a symbol still honored by Mayans living today. The Jaguar, due to its size, speed, strength, and ability, was worshiped as a god. It was often seen that the Jaguar was the ruler of the underworld and the symbol of the night sun and darkness.
Balam, the Mayan name for Jaguar, represents power, ferocity, and valor. In the Mayan culture, some think of Balam as a representation of facing one’s fears or confronting an enemy, while others see it as the ability to see during the night and see the dark parts of the human heart.
Why is the Conservation of Jaguars and their Habitat so Important?
As we mentioned above, they do a tremendous job in maintaining species diversity. Still, its significance in the Mayan culture forms a much deeper connection to these animals here in the Yucatan. The Jaguar species is a critical part of such a tremendous and influential culture that once ruled the Yucatan Peninsula centuries before; the conservation of their home and their species is vital. There are a few things you can do to help preserve the jaguar population and prevent the loss of their habitats!
- Practice eco-friendly tourism
- Don’t support businesses that extort these beautiful creatures for money
- Speak out against new developments that destroy their homes
Jaguar Conservation in Mexico
For years, the Mexican government has been doing whatever it takes to preserve the species while also taking action to help those living around their habitats stay safe and protected. Things like electric fences and compensation for the loss of animals have allowed humans and jaguars to live in harmony and not be threatened by each other.
The Mexican government and the National Alliance for Jaguar Conservation have developed a plan for 2022 to expand the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in the southern Yucatan Peninsula from 723,185 hectares to more than 1.3 million hectares of land for the conservation of jaguars.