Feline defenders

Federal officials promise jaguars protection by January 2011

Photo courtesy of Center for Biological Diversity

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced recently that it will designate areas in the United States to protect endangered jaguars, in response to three successive lawsuits filed by environmentalists since 2004, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

In a sharp reversal of the Bush administration’s policies, the service promised to designate critical habitat and develop a jaguar recovery plan in January 2011. While both actions are required under the Endangered Species Act, the wildlife service never granted the cats protection until now because most of the jaguar’s range is outside of the United States’ borders.

Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere and the third-largest cats in the world, falling behind only lions and tigers. The species’ historic range includes southwestern parts of the United States, including portions of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana.