Mexico's Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat said it has registered in Mexico the existence of more than 4,000 jaguars in five regions of the country, according to a national census taken to protect this endangered species.

The agency released that information Thursday in a communique from the 7th Congress on the Mexican Jaguar in the 21st Century: National Conservation Strategy, currently being held in the central city of Cuernavaca.

The secretariat's director general for wildlife, Martin Vargas Prieto, said that Mexico has conservation centers for the feline in 18 states around the country, where the species is bred in captivity and later released into the wild.

"The jaguar is a predator that performs a basic ecological role because culling its prey's population densities is one way to limit them," the agency's note said.

Jaguars are a "key" species thanks to its position at the "top of the food chain." Furthermore, this feline species "can be the cornerstone for both regional and national conservation plans due to its wide territorial distribution," it said.

The purpose of the congress is to bring together representatives of the different sectors of society to define a National Jaguar Conservation Strategy, a document that will lay down lines of action to be taken to protect the species, currently endangered by hunting and habitat destruction.

Also to be presented at the meeting is a document on Guidelines for Dealing with Conflicts Caused by Jaguar Attacks, prepared by the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat and the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas, in coordination with different sectors of society.