The Big Cats of Belize

The Big Cats of Belize

Belize isn’t lacking for fantastic animal life: from Tapirs and Spiders Monkeys in the Mayan Rainforest to Whale Sharks off the Caribbean reefs, the nation is a hotspot for ecological diversity in Central America. Perhaps none of these species are as symbolic of Belize as the big cats. From large predators like Jaguars and Pumas to the spotted Ocelots and Margays and the otter-like Jaguarundi, these felines can be found across Belize’s many biomes and serve as important parts of the Belizean ecosystem. For many of these species, Belize holds some of the healthiest populations in all of Central America, thanks to dedicated conservation efforts to preserve the country’s natural habitats. Yet as the country’s population grows and expands further and further into the rainforests, these big cats are facing new challenges to their future. Habitat loss, illegal hunting, and retribution killings for killed livestock have threatened big cat populations, while fragmentation of protected areas has decreased genetic diversity, an especially pressing issue for Jaguars.
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Protecting these big cats means supporting innovative conservation methods, such as the establishment of wildlife corridors between wilderness areas. Tracking big cats through methods such as hidden wildlife cameras can also serve to better understand their populations, allowing conservationists to devise new conservation efforts to better protect their futures.

Below, see our information on the five big cats of Belize. Each of these species is unique in its own way, with their own habits, ecological niches, and conservation challenges. To learn more about these majestic felines hands-on, consider joining an EdVenture in Belize!


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Jaguars: The Divine Cats of the Mayans

Before the arrival of Europeans to the Americas, the Mayan Empire stretched across Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, and included great cities such as Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Belize’s own Caracol. At the height of their civilization, the ancient Mayans recognized several animals as sacred, but none more ...
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The Tree-Dwelling Margays of Belize

At little larger than the size of a house cat – and often mistaken for its larger, and more common, ocelot cousins – the margay is a rare site in the rainforests of Belize. Nocturnal, and spending most of their time in the trees of dense evergreen and deciduous forests, ...
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The Elusive Ocelot

One of the most recognizable of all the small cats of Central America, the ocelot – known also as the Painted Leopard, Field Tiger, or Dwarf Leopard – is one of the most common cats of Belize, yet also one of the hardest to spot. Nocturnal by nature and prone ...
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Jaguarundi: The Otter Cats of Belize

Looking like a cross between a house cat and a weasel is the jaguarundi (Herpailurus yaguarondi), one of the smallest – and least studied – of Belize’s wild cats. While big cats, such as  the jaguars and pumas,  often steal the spotlight from their smaller feline cousins, these often-overlooked cats ...
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The Pumas of Belize

Mountain Lion, Catamount, Florida Panther, Cougar – across the Americas, from Canada to the tip of Argentina, these several names have each referred to the same animal: Puma concular, or puma. Often incorrectly thought of as exclusive to the mountains of North America, the puma in fact also prowls the ...
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Jaguar caught on trail camera 2018

Identifying Jaguars By Their Spots

Jaguars once roamed free across the Americas, from the Southwestern United States to the mountains of Argentina and Peru. The third largest big cat in the world – behind only the lion and the tiger – and one of the largest predators in the Western Hemisphere, the jaguar has recently ...
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