The jaguar plays an important part in the maintenance of equilibrium in the ecosystems where it occurs, regulating population sizes of species such as peccaries, capybara, and caiman. Since the jaguar needs large areas to be preserved to survive and reproduce, it is considered an umbrella species. By preserving the habitat needed for the jaguar to survive, all other species in the ecosystem benefit from the protection.
In Brazil, the jaguar is listed by IBAMA (The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) as threatened with extinction. The conversion of habitat into farmland is the principal cause of the 50% reduction in the jaguar’s original range. The jaguar is extinct in two (Uruguay and El Salvador) of the 21 countries where it historically occurred. The jaguar is legally protected in the majority of countries where it is found. Only in Bolivia is hunting still permitted, and the jaguar does not have any legal protection in Ecuador and Guyana.
The Amazon is the major refuge for the jaguar. In all other habitats, the fragmentation of habitat has isolated jaguar populations and is the major threat to the species. The restoration and maintenance of corridors between isolated populations is the principal strategy in conserving the jaguar.