The only known wild jaguar in the United States has made his video debut, captured on a remote sensor camera outside of Tucson, Arizona, and giving wildlife experts more insight into the movements of the elusive cat, experts said on 3 February.

The jaguar, known as El Jefe, has been photographed repeatedly in Arizona's Santa Rita Mountains over the past few years, but had never been captured on video, according to two conservation groups. The massive cat, with a shiny, spotted coat, was an adult male jaguar in prime condition, according to Conservation CATalyst and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Jaguars roam over a vast area ranging from northern 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 the 1990s. The jaguars – the third-largest cats in the world after tigers and lions – once lived throughout the American south-west, and are thought to breed in Mexico and roam up over the border. The US government placed the animals under the Endangered Species Act protections in 1997.

The camera project in the Santa Rita range is part of ongoing efforts to monitor mountain ranges in southeastern Arizona for endangered jaguars and ocelot, said a statement from Center for Biological Diversity.