Yo’oko is one of the few wild jaguars that roam freely in the US. The Tucson-based Northern Jaguar Project released a photo last week showing the pelt of a skinned jaguar.
It is believed that the skin belonged to Yo’oko. The Center for Biological Diversity confirmed that the skin did indeed belong to the young male jaguar.
The Northern Jaguar Project has stated that the pelt markings on the skin they had matched those of Yo’oko. He was a young male jaguar who had been spotted roaming the Huachuca Mountains southeast of Tucson, Arizona, in 2016 and 2017.
The group did not release specifics about how it got the photo. They shared that doing so could hurt their relations with ranchers who support their work.
However, they admitted that the picture was taken in Mexico. Jim DeVos of the Arizona Game and Fish Department and retired US Fish and Wildlife biologist Jim Rorabaugh also confirmed that the pelt markings belonged to Yo’oko.
DeVos said that six Game and Fish officials analyzed the pelt photo and compared it to images of the jaguar. Every jaguar’s coat has unique patterns according to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
“The thought of having to explain to those kids at Hiaki High School that somebody killed their favorite jaguar really just breaks my heart.”
Randy Serraglio, CBD, June 22, 2018
This meant that a jaguar could be individually identified by its markings. Yo’oko is the Yaqui word for “jaguar” and was chosen by Hiaki High School students in Tucson.
The second jaguar believed to be currently living in the US is another male called Sombra which is Spanish for “shadow.” The most well-known jaguar to roam the US in recent history is El Jefe.
He was first spotted in 2011. Researchers caught El Jefe, Spanish for “The Boss,” on video in 2015, and the CBD released the footage the following year.
Of Yo’oko’s death Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the CBD said, “This tragedy is piercing.” He added that “It highlights the urgency to protect jaguar habitat on both sides of the border and ensure that these rare, beautiful cats have safe places to live.”
Jaguars used to populate the American Southwest, but their numbers have dropped in the region over the last 150 years due to habitat loss and hunters who killed them off. The last known female jaguar in the US was killed in 1963.
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