Author: Janis Theron "I mean what I say. Big animals like that [a jaguar] have the capacity to read thoughts. And I don't mean guess. I mean they know everything directly." - Carlos Castaneda, Power of Silence The charismatic Jaguar features in ancient myths - the Maya said that when Jaguars rise from the underworld to eat the sun and moon, there will be an eclipse revealing the end of the earth. Centuries later, the jaguar is an endangered species thanks to human impacts.
Picture the Jaguar (Panthera onca): a large muscular wild cat with huge penetrating amber-green eyes, a prominent strong nose and a daunting jawline. A stocky tan animal with beautiful black spots (rosettes) all over its body, weighing up to 113kg and living up to 15 years in the wild. The name jaguar comes from an indigenous word that means "he who kills with one leap".

The jaguar resembles the leopard of Africa, but Jaguars are larger and more muscular, with broader chests and shorter bodies; Jaguars crush their prey's skulls with their strong jaws and have shorter tails than their leopard cousins.

Humans exploit both cats – leopards are classified as "vulnerable", and Jaguars are classified as "near threatened" on the IUCN red list. Numbers are decreasing, and only some 64 000 Jaguars are left on the planet. This beautiful feline once ranged from the US border with Mexico to the Grand Canyon to Patagonia and Argentina. She now mainly roams around the South American Amazon River Basin, a 2.7 million square miles (7 million square km) lowland region.

Do you love Burger King and Macdonald's fast foods? Instant gratification! Reports show that Burger King and Mcdonald's are linked to enormous rainforest destruction, and Brazil has already lost half of her savanna to cattle ranches. The iconic jaguar is at risk of extinction along with its rainforest and savannah habitats, thanks to rampant habitat destruction.
Greedy logging, cattle ranching, monoculture farming, mining, oil extraction and dam building have destroyed half of the world's rainforests in 100 years. Other threats include the disintegration of ecosystems, hunting, trade, and general persecution.

Hence the importance of International Jaguar Day, a calendar event every November 29th to highlight these increasing threats and to revere the cat's importance to the food web and ecosystems in the Americas. Most people don't know that the jaguar is a 'keystone species for biodiversity conservation in its home regions.

A keystone species is "a particular animal, plant, or microorganism that plays a significant role in its environment. Keystone species are important to the point that their very existence is crucial to their ecosystem's survival."

Jaguars are indicator species for healthy ecosystems – when Jaguars are present in their natural habitats, rainforests and lowlands around the Amazon basin indicate that these habitats are functioning as nature intended. When Jaguars disappear from their habitats, it suggests something wrong; the balance is out of kilter. Jaguars eat birds, reptiles, mammals, and more, controlling prey populations, and playing a vital role in keeping ecosystems stable.

Conservation aims to protect the jaguar and the prey species in the food web and their disappearing habitats. Conservation is a holistic approach to preserving all life. Humans depend on healthy ecosystems too, but we seem to be doing our darndest to destroy them all.

Welcome to the Jaguar 2030 Roadmap! The brainchild of a network of organisations, individuals, governments, NGOs, local communities and the private sector, the Jaguar 2030 Roadmap is an innovative futuristic concept put in place to protect the jaguar across states, countries and continents.

It focuses on the Jaguar Corridor, the animal's home range, and depends upon preserving 30 prime conservation landscapes for Jaguars by 2030. Hopefully, it will increase awareness about the jaguar's plight and get all role players to hold hands to save the keystone species. Without our rainforests, we are all doomed!
"The jaguar has lost approximately 50 percent of its historic range, with an estimated seven million km2 of tropical and sub-tropical habitat remaining. Retention of these ecosystems not only has value for jaguars, but they also have immense economic value."