The jaguar is the largest of America’s big cats and the third largest big cat in the world. It has a yellow to tan coat marked with hundreds of rosettes, giving it a very distinguished look.
It is unique among big cats in that its bite is not only strong enough to pierce the shells of turtles but it also uses this bite force to go directly for the head of mammalian prey, easily penetrating the skull and immediately causing brain death in said prey.
It has been “Near Threatened” on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species since 2002.
What Is the Average Lifespan of A Jaguar?
So, how long do Jaguars live? When looking to wild jaguars, the average lifespan falls somewhere between 12 and 15 years of age.
Lifespan in Captivity
While wild jaguars have lived for as long as a decade and a half in the wild, the relative safety of captivity has contributed to lifespans of as long as 22 years; the world’s oldest jaguar lives in captivity.
A female jaguar’s estrus lasts anywhere from seven to 15 days and cycles every 42 to 53 days. The time between generations of jaguar averages out to nearly a decade’s time.
Jaguar gestation lasts anywhere from 91 to 111 days.
Jaguar cubs are born with their eyes closed and they will not be able to see until eyes open at two weeks of age.
While weaning begins at three months of age, cubs remain in their mother’s den for six months before they ever get to join her on a hunt. Young jaguars will stay with their mothers for up to two years before leaving home. Females reach sexual maturity at 2.5 years of age, while males reach maturity at 3-4 years.
Probable Causes of Death
There is more than one way to skin a cat and what might concern other animals may be nothing to a jaguar.
Jaguars are apex predators, meaning nothing is higher up than it is on the food chain. The only potential predator that a jaguar might need to seriously worry about would be cougars. This is due to the large overlap in territory and diet of prey and similar builds. While fights between other jaguars are known to occur, these tend to be rare events; staying out of each others’ territory seems to be the standard practice between males.
Deforestation of territory, illegal retribution for the slaughter of livestock and the presence of a market for its body parts are all human endeavors that have played a role in the diminished global population of the jaguar.
On the other hand, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary of Belize, established in 1986, is the planet’s only known conservation center for jaguars; there were somewhere between 800 and 1,500 jaguars living within this range in 2018. Jaguars have the safe reputation of being the least likely to attack humans, only striking out of fear or survival instinct. Lastly, the jaguar happens to be the national animal of Guyana.
Poaching has led to a sharp decline in the North American jaguar’s territory across California, the Gulf of Mexico and the Yucatan Peninsula; humans have been changing how they use the land, much to the jaguar’s detriment. A survey of over 500 individuals living along the Amazon stated that they have killed jaguar out of fear for the big cats taking their lives.
Jaguars are susceptible to several major types of infectious diseases:
- Parvoirus. While more commonly known to affect dogs, parvovirus can also strike cats, affecting cells within bone marrow and intestines. Symptoms of this disease include decreased white cell count, bleeding and inflammation of the intestines and vomiting.
- Paramyxovirus. This is an entire family of diseases and its members can cause problems like mumps, measles and respiratory issues.
- Toxoplasmosis. This disease also affects humans and is known to spread through contact with feces, shed fur and/or urine that contains oocysts.
There have been at least three recorded cases where a male jaguar devoured his own cubs. The leading theory as to why a father might do this is likely related to stress over territory and maintaining dominance. In this light, the victimized cubs in these circumstances were probably males.
How Old Was The Oldest Known Jaguar?
The oldest known jaguar on record would be Micica, a resident of ZOO Osijek in Slavonia, Croatia. A news story from 2017 proclaimed her as the oldest example of her species, clocking her age at 29 years and 6 months, beating the previous record age of 28 years. Rather than being born into captivity, Micica, whose name means “kitten,” was transferred to the zoo, from South Africa, at the age of 6. She is the only jaguar present in the zoo.