I was going to try and do something non-furry to continue to explore cuteness on other branches of the tree of life, but this little guy just made my heart melt and I couldn't, in good conscience, post anything else.
This adorable little cub is a Black Jaguar, born on April 14th in Peru. Jaguars, Panthera onca, are the third largest cat species and the only Panthera species found in the Americas. The black color is due to a dominant but rare allele, and black moms can have black or spotted babies. They live in Mexico and much of Central America, extending as far south as Argentina and as far north, possibly, as Texas and Arizona.
But as adorable as they are, itâs possible that the near future will see these beautiful cats go extinct. While currently listed as "near-threatened" on the IUCN Red List, jaguar populations are falling due to habitat loss and poaching. In the '60s, more than 15,000 jaguar skins were sold from the Brazilian Amazon annually, but CITES listing changes in the '70s dramatically reduced this activity. Still, in many areas, the cat's penchant for farm animals leads them to be shot on site by farmers and ranchers. While hunting is prohibited all together or limited to "problem animals" in most of their range, Bolivia still allows trophy hunting, and jaguars have no legal protection in Ecuador or Guyana, despite being their national animal.
Jaguars are special in that they're considered an "umbrella species" - one whose home range and habitat are so broad that protecting them automatically protects a number of other, more limited species. However, the US government decided in January that the jaguar recovery was unimportant, and decided to abandon it under the endangered species act. This is an unprecedented action by Bush, which many believe was solely for the purpose of allowing a controversial border fence to be built which happens to block the cat's typical crossing routes from Mexico.
So while this little guy is absolutely adorable, his kind faces mounting threats as their habitat is destroyed and cut into pieces by ridiculous fences and the ever-expanding human population. It's very possible that, in the next hundred years, the status will drop to endangered for these majestic animals.
Ok. One more cute Peruvian youngster, to cheer you up again: