he largest carnivorous mammal of tropical America – the King of Beasts of the Amazon rainforest – is the jaguar. Found from the deserts of the American southwest as far south as Argentina, the jaguar is the world’s third largest feline, exceeded in size only by the lion and the tiger. The largest male jaguars can tip the scale at well over 300 pounds, appreciably more than an African lioness. Jaguars also are renowned for the extraordinary power of their bite: they can easily chomp through turtle shells and may kill large prey with a single bite to the back of the neck.
Because of their power, strength, fearlessness and ability to roam the rainforest in the dead of night, jaguars serve as the symbol of the Amazonian shaman – indeed, it is not uncommon for these healers to claim that with the aid of powerful plants like ayahuasca, they can turn themselves into jaguars. Among the Amazon’s apex predators, only the jaguar typically plays a major cultural role in indigenous societies.