Return to Home
The King Without A Throne: The Jaguar
|There is no other animal that evokes so many feelings of fear, admiration and respect as the jaguar does, the biggest cat in the American continent, that, until the Spaniards arrived, was the supreme king of jungles and forests. It was worshipped by the natives, and now lives in exile, hiding from humans in the few natural hideaways that are left in Mexican territory.
The jaguar in prehispanic times
The jaguar was one of the most important animals inside the Prehispanic, Aztec, Mayan, Olmec and other culture’s world vision. In its ethnic symbolism he is the guardian of darkness, also representing the mysteries of the jungle and the strength to survive in it.
Worshiped, but hunted.
Because of its strength and beauty, this carnivore was the Aztec synonym of brutal strength, violence and destruction. In Tenochtitlan, the high ranking military leaders and the most important warriors were called "Jaguar Knights", dressing with capes of jaguar skin. The Aztec emperors not only decorated their capes, sandals and symbols made from jaguars they also had the exclusive privilege of using in their thrones, carpets and cushions made of jaguar skin, all symbolizing authority. After several centuries of Spanish dominion, most traditions and indigenous cultural concepts were lost, and with them, respect to nature. Even though the jaguar had a profound impact, currently, it has become a trophy, a male chauvinist obsession to dominate, a prey to selfish hunters that are only looking to brag about having killed a powerful "tiger".
The nature of the "Tiger"
Known as "the jaguar" by the people in the country side (Panthera onca) it is related to the big felines of the Old World, like the tiger, lion and leopard. It can measure up to 2.4 meters long. Historically it was distributed throughout both Mexican coasts (tropical and subtropical environments), all the way to the south of the United States and the North of Argentina, but it is currently extinct in several central American countries, while in Mexico, its population has been diminished, fragmented and isolated quite seriously, it is believed to have disappeared from several coastal regions.
Most of what is known about the jaguar in Mexico is anecdotic and sporadic and its real situation is unknown as well as how many of them there are. This is due to the way they live and the environment they live in, without omitting how dangerous it is to "travel" inside the jungle were no human law that protects scientists is applicable.
It’s greatest threat, the destruction of its habitat and hunting.
Demographic explosion has caused deforestation to increase in an ongoing way, it is estimated that more than one million hectares of jungles and forests are lost annually in Mexico. In the jaguar’s case, it is known that massive deforestation has reduced, isolated and removed many of its population, thus, should this trend continue, it will be extinct in a few years. The increase in human activities, the creation of pathways and roads multiply encounters amongst people and jaguars (mortal encounters for the latter), plus it makes it easier for sneaky hunter to go deeper inside the jungle killing the jaguar’s natural prey, forcing them to capture cattle and domestic animals to satisfy their hunger needs.
Although jaguar hunting has been barred since 1988, there are still some regions where they are hunted by tradition or as a source of income, where wealthy, unscrupulous hunters, pay farmers or indigenous people to take them to places where they can find them. Unfortunately, this takes place nearby Puerto Vallarta, in Nayarit and Jalisco’s coastal jungles.
Fortunately, serious and intense efforts are being carried out to protect the jaguar; surprisingly it is believed that we still have a "healthy" jaguar population, due to the wild and inaccessibility of our Sierra Madre. However, governments must carry out more aggressive and intense campaigns to inform farmers and people that live in jaguar zones, to avoid getting them killed because of fear or lack of knowledge or because it has killed cattle or a domestic animal. If that was the case, there must be economic resources to give the affected individual and convince him that whether he kills the animal or not, many times it is not the same animal, sacrificing an innocent jaguar or a mother leaving his babies unattended. With respect and education, we will once again learn the value of this majestic animal. Not its divine value, but its priceless value as a species and the important role it plays in Mexico’s natural ecosystems.