Studies in Persuasion: El Jefe

My interactive project focuses on getting each endangered creature under your skin with a short story that conveys some facts about the threats they face.

And it is a very short story — a first-person narrative in under five hundred words. Those are my constraints. Bad things happen to good creatures. The commentary is not militant or political. It doesn’t need to be. It’s a one-inch story of a dark future. I endow these creatures with self-awareness and the capacity for reflection. The narration seasons my illustrations. What does each character care about the most? What’s at stake?

This project is interactive, scalable and appropriate for coloring books, tablets and beyond.


I am the only jaguar in the United States. No others exist. My name is El Jefe. I roam around the Santa Rita mountains near Tucson Arizona, mostly at night, and mostly in secret. No human has ever seen me. Except with their little hidden cameras. I live with a single threat. People who want to kill me. Mainly cattle ranchers. Looking down over there at herds of livestock when I’m up here and hungry, I’m going in for a kill. Cows don’t even fight. For me that’s a big piece of meat.

I am the most powerful of all the big cats, and only the lion and tiger are bigger.

I kill my prey in a different way. I bite deep into the skull right between the ears, crushing the brain. My jaw power is fearsome. The ranchers regard me with terror. My fear is getting shot.

I remain alone, I don’t want friends or need members of my tribe. All I want is immense space, hundreds of square miles. Jungle or desert, same thing.

I settled in these Arizona mountains by wandering off from the others in Mexico. When a group of jaguars are together it’s called a jamboree. You might see that in Mexico and further south, Honduras, Guatemala, and the Amazon. Those places have their problems too. In my area they want to build a giant copper mine. That will destroy the habitat.

I am a great climber of trees and can settle on a limb for a nap. If I find a pool I’m a proud fast swimmer and I will kill a fish with a slap of my paw.

I eat eighty kinds of prey. And if it’s the kind that puts up a fight and starts kicking, they kick me in the belly where I have soft, loose fur. I don’t get hurt.

People have done the most damage. There is one story you should know. Before I arrived on the scene there was just one jaguar here in Arizona. His name was Macho B. The Fish and Game Service, who are supposed to protect us, set a trap for Macho B. They caught him and shot him full of tranquilizers. A collar was put around his neck. Some weeks later they noticed that Macho B was not moving, not walking. It turned out that their trap had mangled his leg so horribly he could not walk, He was also suffering from the side effects of the tranquilizers. So they hauled him into a plane, flew him far away to a hospital and killed him.

As for me, I’m young and healthy and may start wandering again. Remember my name, El Jefe. School kids gave me that name. It means ’The Boss’.

Originally published at Howard Stein.

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