El Jefe (jaguar)

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El Jefe
El Jefe in Arizona, 2013
BornLikely Sierra Madre, northwest Mexico[1]
Known forBeing one of the few wild jaguars to have been recently sighted in the United States of America[1]
ResidenceArizona or Mexico, North America[2]

El Jefe is an adult, male North American jaguar that was seen in Arizona.[1] He was first recorded in November 2011,[3] and is living in the Santa Rita Mountains. From November 2011 to November 2016, El Jefe was the only wild jaguar verified to live in the United States. His name - which is Spanish for The Boss - was chosen by students of the Felizardo Valencia Middle School of Tucson, in a contest organized by the non-profit conservation group Center for Biological Diversity in November 2015[4] and has been used frequently by conservation groups and media. However, several researchers involved in his monitoring prefer to call him simply the Santa Ritas jaguar.

First sighting[edit]

El Jefe was first sighted by cougar hunter and guide Donnie Fenn, along with his 10-year-old daughter, in the Whetstone Mountains on Saturday, 19 November 2011. His hunting dogs chased the animal until he climbed a tree, at which point he took several pictures of him and left to call state wildlife officials. In a news conference[5] organized by the Arizona Game and Fish Department the following Tuesday, Fenn stated that the jaguar, an adult male, climbed down the tree and was chased up a second tree after he had injured some of the dogs in his retreat. The hunter pulled his dogs away, and left the scene. The pictures represent the first evidence of the existence of a wild jaguar in the United States since the death of Macho B in 2009.[6] Several news outlets ran the photos with an article - however a video, said to have been taken at the scene, is not publicly available.

Appearance in the Santa Rita Mountains[edit]

In 20 December 2012, through a joint news release[7] the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the University of Arizona, announced that pictures from a jaguar taken in late November of that year, at the Santa Rita Mountains using camera-traps, belonged to the same individual photographed by Fenn one year earlier. The camera-traps were set by the Jaguar Survey and Monitoring Project an initiative led by the University of Arizona. Individual jaguars can be identified by their unique spot patterns, which allowed researchers to confirm it was the same adult male.[8]

Continued monitoring[edit]

Since the emergence of the Santa Rita photographs of El Jefe in 2012, several new pictures and some videos have been released by agencies and groups working in the area, notably by the Wild Cat Research and Conservation Center at the University of Arizona.[9] An edited video[10] with shots from different days gained much attention in the news when it was released by the Center for Biological Diversity and CATalyst.

Significance and origin[edit]

El Jefe is significant as he represented, for five consecutive years, the only verified jaguar currently living in the United States, where they once were distributed throughout the southwest. Before being found it was believed that the species had been completely extirpated in the United States. Historically, the jaguar was recorded in far eastern Texas, and the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico. However, since the 1940s, the jaguar has been limited to the southern parts of these states. In 2010 the US Fish and Wildlife Service was successfully sued by Defenders of Wildlife to produce a Species Recovery Plan and designate Critical Habitat for jaguars, it has since drafted an area that includes the Santa Rita mountains as the Critical habitat for the species recovery in the United States.

The northernmost breeding population of jaguars, from where El Jefe most likely came, was identified by Brown and López González[11] in eastern Sonora, Mexico and named the Huásabas-Sahuaripa population, after two of the municipalities over which it extends. This population has been the target of several conservation efforts, most notably the creation of the Northern Jaguar Reserve, a private wildlife sanctuary first established in 2003 by Naturalia, a Mexican non-profit conservation organization[2] and Northern Jaguar Project and since expanded from its original 4,000 hectares (40 square kilometers) to 24,400 hectares (244 square kilometers) in 2015.

As part of its efforts to determine critical habitat for the species and to understand how jaguars from this population have been reaching the United States, the US Fish and Wildlife Service commissioned the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop a connectivity model, that could inform which areas are likely to serve as wildlife corridors linking breeding populations of jaguars in Mexico to known locations of recent sightings in the United States. The report included[12] a series of maps that identify the areas most likely to be used by jaguars along the western states of Mexico, and reaching into Arizona. It further identifies intersections between these corridors and major highways, as a first step in addressing the challenges any females may face trying to reach Arizona. The establishment of a breeding population of jaguars in the U.S. requires that at least one breeding female uses the U.S. as part of its territory, and is regarded as a milestone in species recovery.

Controversial development projects[edit]

The appearance of El Jefe in the Santa Rita Mountains prompted several groups to increase their opposition of the Rosemont Copper mining project still in the permitting process.[13]

The housing project Villages at Vigneto is also being contested for its environmental impact, and damage to jaguar's critical habitat has been mentioned as one of the potential effects[14]

The Mexico-United States barrier, a series of infrastructures built since 2006, most likely represent an obstacle to any female jaguar seeking to expand its territory into Arizona, from the known breeding populations of Sonora in Mexico. The increasing infrastructure and the waivers approved, releasing the Department of Homeland Security from adhering to any environmental law in its progress towards building more walls, have been cited as a major concern for recovery of the species in the United States.[15]

Mexican Federal Highways No. 2 and No.15 have also been identified by both the Wildlife Conservation Society's report on jaguar habitat and by local conservation groups as major obstacles to jaguar recovery in the region. Beginning in 2010 Highway 2 has been undergoing a series of expansions, on the stretches from the town of Imuris in Sonora, to the town of Janos in the neighboring state of Chihuahua. Wildlands Network, a conservation group focused on preserving connectivity for large carnivores, has alerted of the need to include wildlife crossings on the expanded stretches of road to provide room to roam for jaguars and other animals.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Richard Grant (October 2016). "The Return of the Great American Jaguar". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Naturalia". Website. The Northern Jaguar Project. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  3. ^ Arizona Game and Fish Department (21 November 2011). "Game and Fish confirms report of jaguar in southern Arizona". Arizona Game and Fish Department Media web page. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  4. ^ Associated Press (3 December 2015). "Students name Arizona wild jaguar 'El Jefe'". AZ Central The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  5. ^ Davis, Tony (22 November 2011). "Guide describes roaring, powerful jaguar". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  6. ^ "Macho B Jaguar Information". Website. Arizona Game and Fish Department. 13 March 2009. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  7. ^ Humphrey, Jeff; et al. (20 December 2012). "Jaguar and Ocelot Recently Photographed by Monitoring Cameras in Southern Arizona" (PDF). US Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  8. ^ Siver, Scott C.; et al. (April 2004). "The use of camera traps for estimating jaguar Panthera onca abundance and density using capture/recapture analysis" (PDF). Oryx. doi:10.1017/s0030605304000286. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  9. ^ "Wildlife Monitoring Cameras Click Jaguar and Ocelot Photos". University of Arizona News. 20 December 2012. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  10. ^ "'El Jefe' the Jaguar Captured on Video". Abc News. 4 February 2016. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  11. ^ Brown, David & López González, Carlos (2001). Borderland Jaguars. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. p. 108. ISBN 0874806968.
  12. ^ Sanderson, Eric; et al. (12 March 2013). "Jaguar Habitat Modeling and Database Update" (PDF). US Fish & Wildlife Service / Species documents. US Fish and Wildlife Service. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  13. ^ Davis, Tony (28 June 2013). "Jaguar roves near Rosemont mine site". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 27 March 2016.
  14. ^ Bregel, Emily (14 March 2016). "Environmentalists moving to sue federal agencies over Vigneto development". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 26 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Border-fence dispute snares rare jaguars - CNN.com". edition.cnn.com. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Wild Linkages Binational Partnership: Mexican Highway Two" (PDF). Sky Islands Restoration Cooperative. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 28 March 2016.

External links[edit]

News coverage[edit]