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Rare jaguar caught and released in Arizona

AN extremely rare jaguar has been captured and fitted with a satellite tracking collar by researchers in Arizona, who hope to shed light on the habits of one of the United States' most elusive predators.

Arizona Game and Fish Department officials caught the male cat on Wednesday in a rugged area southwest of Tucson during a study to better understand bear and mountain lion habitat.

Jaguars roam over a vast area ranging from Argentina in the south to the rugged borderland wildernesses of Arizona and New Mexico, where they were thought to have vanished until two confirmed sightings in 1996.

Only a handful have ever been sighted in the US since then and very little is known about their habits.

The animal, thought to be at least 15 years old, was fitted with a collar containing a global positioning system, and released back into the wild, officials said.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to learn how the animal moves out in the landscape," said Bill Van Pelt, the department's birds and mammals program manager.

The US Government placed the animals under the Endangered Species Act protection in 1997. Since then researchers using cameras set up on remote trails have identified just a handful of individual animals, all males.

The jaguars, the only roaring cats in the Americas, are thought to breed in Mexico and roam up over the border.

In recent years there has been increasing concern for the American population as the US builds 1,070 kilometers of fencing along its 3,200 kilometers border with Mexico.


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