(Reuters) - The only known wild jaguar in the United States has made his video debut, captured on a remote sensor camera outside of Tucson, Arizona, and giving wildlife experts more insight into the movements of the elusive cat, experts said on Wednesday.
The jaguar, known as El Jefe, has been photographed repeatedly in Arizona’s Santa Rita Mountains over the past few years, but had never been captured on video, according to two conservation groups.
The massive cat, with a shiny, spotted coat, was an adult male jaguar in prime condition, according to Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Just knowing that this amazing cat is right out there, just 25 miles from downtown Tucson, is a big thrill,” said Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate Center for Biological Diversity.
Jaguars roam over a vast area ranging from northern Argentina in the south to the rugged borderland wildernesses of Arizona and New Mexico, where they were thought to have vanished until two confirmed sightings in the 1990s.
The jaguars — the third-largest cats in the world after tigers and lions — once lived throughout the American Southwest, and are thought to breed in Mexico and roam up over the border.
The U.S. government placed the animals under the Endangered Species Act protections in 1997.
The camera project in the Santa Rita range is part of ongoing efforts to monitor mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona for endangered jaguar and ocelot, said a statement from Center for Biological Diversity.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Los Angeles; Editing by Nick Macfie