The Jaguar (Panthera Onca) is the third-largest of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and the only living member native to the western hemisphere.
Growing up to 160 kg (350 lb), Jaguars are distinguished by rosette-emblazoned fur, comparatively short tails and an exceptionally powerful bite that enables them to successfully prey on armored reptiles such as caimans and turtles.
(images via: Fanpop and WWF/Go Wild)
Jaguars are stated to be Near Threatened by the IUCN and while their current range is roughly half of what it once was, these often solitary big cats can still be found from southern Arizona in the United States down to Paraguay and northern Argentina.
Large spotted cats have preyed on primates for millennia. Even today leopards cause many human deaths in Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
A rosette is a rose-like marking or formation found on the fur and skin of some animals, particularly cats of the family Felidae. Rosettes are used to camouflage the animal, either as a defense mechanism or as a stalking tool.
Predators use their rosettes to simulate the different shifting of shadows and shade, helping the animals to remain hidden from their prey. Rosettes can be grouped in clusters around other spots, or may appear as blotches on the fur.
Rosettes can appear with or without central spots.
Leopard (Smaller and more dense compared to those of a Jaguar and without central spots).
Native to the Central Asian mountains, the snow leopard is a rare sight, with only about 6,000 left in the wild. They are hunted for their beautiful, warm fur and for their organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Photograph by Michael Nichols.
These rare, beautiful gray leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia. They are insulated by thick hair, and their wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes.
Snow leopards have powerful legs and are tremendous leapers, able to jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters). They use their long tails for balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.
Snow leopards prey upon the blue sheep (bharal) of Tibet and the Himalaya, as well as the mountain ibex found over most of the rest of their range.
Though these powerful predators can kill animals three times their weight, they also eat smaller fare, such as marmots, hares, and game birds.
One Indian snow leopard, protected and observed in a national park, is reported to have consumed five blue sheep, nine Tibetan woolly hares, twenty-five marmots, five domestic goats, one domestic sheep, and fifteen birds in a single year.
As these numbers indicate, snow leopards sometimes have a taste for domestic animals, which has led to killings of the big cats by herders.
These endangered cats appear to be in dramatic decline because of such killings, and due to poaching driven by illegal trades in pelts and in body parts used for traditional Chinese medicine.
Vanishing habitat and the decline of the cats’ large mammal prey are also contributing factors.
What could be better than two tiny leopard cubs? Three tiny leopard cubs, of course!
At least, that’s the attitude of administrators at Denver Zoo, who welcomed the addition of a female, clouded leopard cub to join the zoo’s two existing cubs of the same species on Saturday (May 17). Zookeepers hope this addition will increase the chances that these rare cats will one day breed successfully.
The as yet unnamed female was born on April 10 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), a veterinary and reproductive research center in Front Royal, Virginia.
The new cub joined a male, clouded leopard cub named Pi, and a female named Rhu, both born at the Denver Zoo on March 14.
Despite their name, these clouded leopard cubs are not actually leopards at all. They belong to their own genus, Neofelis, and are considered a bridge species between typical big cats (like lions and tigers) and small cats (like pumas, lynx and ocelots).
The clouded leopard cubs living at Denver Zoo will grow to between two to four feet long and will likely weigh between 24 to 50 pounds.
As to the celestial part of their name, the cats have distinctive, cloud-shaped blotches on their coats, which provide excellent camouflage in their native forest habitat.
The new cub arrived at Denver Zoo through a recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan, which promotes healthy populations, as well as genetic diversity, among zoo animals.