A dedicated Jaguar holiday to the Brazilian Pantanal is the best way for wildlife lovers to fulfil the dream of seeing these beautiful big cats in their natural habitat. A professionally organised Jaguar holiday will be lead by an expert naturalist, with extensive knowledge of the animals' behaviour and territories, in order to provide the best opportunities for sightings – including the rare possibility of observing females with their cubs. |
Mating, Gestation and Birth
Solitary and secretive animals that live and hunt alone, the only times adults come together is to mate. Females become sexually mature at around two years of age, and males at around three or four years. They can mate at any time of the year and the female is 'receptive' for a week or two at a time – vocalising loudly to attract any males in the area. Once she has successfully mated, the female drives the male off and continues her pregnancy alone.
After a gestation of between 90-110 days, the female will search for a suitable den in dense cover and give birth to a litter of one to four cubs – most commonly two.
The cubs weigh about 700-900 grams at birth and are born with their eyes sealed shut. They are completely helpless and blind, relying entirely upon their mother.
Cubs are born with their markings (rosettes), which are unique to the individual, already in place. While their bone structure and shape will develop as they mature, the markings on their coat remain unchanged into adulthood and throughout their life.
Cubs begin to open their eyes when they're about two weeks old, and soon after that will make their first tentative steps beyond the safety of the den. They will start to play with one another and explore their immediate surrounds under the very watchful eye of their mother – who will gently retrieve them by the scruff of their neck if they stray too far from the den. The females are extremely protective of their offspring, defending them ferociously against any threats – including the father, as infanticide is not uncommon.
The mother begins to wean her cubs any time from three months onward, but they remain entirely dependent on her to provide them with food from her hunting expeditions. At about six months the cubs begin to accompany the female on hunting trips, and she will start teaching them stalk and ambush techniques out on the jungle trails.
Cubs will live and hunt with their mother until at least one or two years of age. Young females tend to strike out on their own to establish a territory and mate sooner than young males, who often don’t establish their own territory until their third or fourth year, when they reach sexual maturity.
For those on a Jaguar holiday lucky enough to encounter the sight of a female and her cubs, it's a rare privilege afforded to few and a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience to be treasured.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek., which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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