Mes del Jaguar, the Month of the Jaguar, is coming to a close. In this second blog highlighting this important month, Panthera Researcher Diana Stasiukynas guides us through recent research discussing “hide and flirt” tactics that female jaguars employ in order to increase the likelihood of their cubs’ survival.
How do female jaguars help save their cubs? Mes del Jaguar, the Month of the Jaguar, is a time to celebrate jaguars in the culture and art of the Americas. And by sharing the latest research on jaguars, we can ensure this vibrant culture lives on. When we better understand jaguars, we can build conservation efforts to help the species survive and thrive.
So, what does this have to do with female jaguars and their cubs? In Colombia and Brazil, Panthera scientists and partners studied the behaviors of female jaguar courtship rituals when the female jaguars had offspring. Thanks to successful and safe ecotourism in the Northern Brazilian Pantanal and Colombian Llanos, we found something groundbreaking that had previously only been observed in pumas, lions and leopards, but never in jaguars.
Female jaguars use “hide and flirt” tactics to protect their cubs. This means that female jaguar “hide” their offspring away when a male jaguar approaches and “flirts” with him in order to distract him and prevent him from killing her young. Additionally, mating with multiple males establishes an uncertain paternity status, further protecting their young.
Our study took place from July 2019 to August 2020. Using camera trap recordings and direct sightings, we constructed common behaviors amongst female jaguars that were showing signs of lactation during mating. We found that females would induce a state of pseudo-estrus after hiding their cubs, enticing male jaguars to mate in order to create the aforementioned uncertain paternity status.
In one case, a female jaguar was observed playing and hunting with her cub for several days. However, in the next several days, the same female was found courting a male jaguar; only adult footprints were found. Two weeks later, the female and her cub were once again recorded alone, suggesting “hide and flirt” tactics in action.
With this new knowledge, we have a better understanding of jaguar behavior that can help inform conservation efforts and sustainable ecotourism. This important insight into the secretive lives of jaguars also calls for increased research. Without direct sightings of jaguars in the Pantanal and Llanos, we would not have been able to make our conclusions about “hide and flirt” tactics. It is thanks to ecotourism that jaguars have become bolder and safely habituated to the presence of humans.
The Month of the Jaguar is a time for scientific achievement and advancement in the study of wild cats. And by studying jaguars and other wild cats, we can ensure the Felidae family lives on. To observe jaguar behaviors that will spawn new jaguar culture, we must engage in activities that will protect jaguars. From Mexico to Argentina, Costa Rica to Brazil, Honduras to Colombia and even beyond jaguar range, together we can draw attention to the cause of wild cat conservation year-round.
Read our first blog in this series about jaguar culture.