Big cat-jaguar | Sunday Observer

Big cat-jaguar

25 June, 2023

The jaguar belongs to the panthera genus and bears the scientific name of panthera onca.

The jaguar is the third largest of the big cats after the lion and the tiger and is on the chunky side so the title big cat is very appropriate. It is also the largest of all the cats in the Americas.

Jaguars can be found only in the Americas and their habitat range extends from Arizona in the South western United States, Mexico, through Central America to most of the countries in the Amazon River Basin in South America and as far south as northern Argentina.

Jaguars are generally solitary animals meaning they prefer to be alone.

These big cat predators usually hunt at night and most often drag their kills up trees to protect them.


Jaguars love to wander around their habitats, the rain forests of Central and South Americas. Dense rainforests are the preferred homes of jaguars but they can also be found in other forested areas and some open plains.


The jaguar has a spotted coat and therefore, resembles the leopard, an animal found in Asian and African countries. However, the jaguar is larger and stockier than the leopard.

The leopard has more rosettes or spots than the jaguar. Though the jaguar has less spots they are larger than the leopard’s and have small dots in the middle. The jaguar’s behaviour is similar to a tigers.

Both the jaguar and the tiger love water and are excellent swimmers. Jaguars mark their territory by leaving a scent. The territory of a male jaguar can be twice the size of a female jaguar. Male jaguars aggressively protect their areas and the females living in them from other males.

The jaguars method of hunting is to stalk and ambush its prey, Jaguars often leap into water or from a tree to catch their prey. Jaguars are carnivores or meat eaters. They hunt over 80 species of animal of all sizes, such as deer, pigs, capybara, foxes, frogs fish and even large anaconda snakes.

The jaguar has a very powerful jaw and its bite is more forceful than a lions.


Male jaguars are about 10-20 percent larger than females. On average jaguars weigh between 124 - 211 lbs (56–96 kg) and are 4 ft to 6.5 ft (1.2 to 1.95 m) in length. The lifespan of a Jaguars in the wild is 11-15 years while in captivity they can live for over 20 years.

Many ancient American cultures such as the Maya and Aztec, featured the jaguar in their mythologies and the jaguar was often thought of as a symbol of strength.


Leya, the female black jaguar was gifted to the Dehiwala Zoo by the Artis zoo in the Netherlands. Leya came to Sri Lanka on June 22, 2019. Leya was too years old then and now she is six years. Because of high melanin action Leyas colour appears to be black but a closer look will show the natural, patterned spots of the jaguar.


Leno, the tawny jaguar arrived at the Dehiwala Zoo on January 26, 2023 under an animal exchange program with the Best Zoo in the Netherlands. Sri Lanka gave two pairs of giant rock squirrels in exchange for Leno. Leno, was two years old when he arrived in Sri Lanka.

Currently, Leno and Leya are a star attraction at the Dehiwala Zoo.

Pix: Dushmantha Mayadunne