Fires, deforestation, infrastructure, killing and poaching threaten not one species of wild animals, many of them are on the endangered species list, including jaguar (Panthera onca). It is estimated that there are about 15,000 individuals of that species left.
The females stay in one area; the males wander for food and look for females to mate. They crisscross borders across the Americas, traveling as far south as Argentina and as far north as Arizona and New Mexico in the United States.
Jaguars do not know the human boundaries. Once they leave the protected area, they become spoils of poachers – which happened in April at Mexico’s Yaxchil Natural Monument – a mutilated jaguar body was found there.
Monitoring Jaguars Movements
Each jaguar has specific dots. It’s the same as human fingerprints. Therefore, it was possible to observe several jaguars, namely 14 individuals, and their movements between continents.
Photos of the same individual were recorded in Tikal National Park located in Northern Guatemala’s Petén Province and were compared with photos taken by conservation groups in Mexico and Belize.
Rony García-Anleu, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Guatemala, explains that drug traffickers are intending to set fire on the western border of Guatemala and Mexico to clear the way for aircraft dominating narcotics.
Guatemalan Civil War
During the brutal civil war in Guatemala, war refugees sought refuge for their families. The 36-year conflict ended in 1996 with hundreds of thousands dead. Only a small part of the elite got land titles. The other population settled in despair as the Guatemala population grew, explains WCS program director Roan McNab.
After people began to occupy more and more land along the border, the natural space of the Jaguar naturally declined, as did the prey of the animals. The jaguars resorted to hunting calves. Breeders often kill the big cats to protect their farms.
Death on the Highway and Train Line
James Callaghan, director of the Kaxil Kiuic Millsaps Biocultural Reserve in Yucatan, explains how another human-induced obstacle threatening jaguars across the continent: “There are a lot of fatalities from highways, with cars hitting jaguars and killing them.”
Another potential threat is the proposed International Train Line, called Tren Maya (Mayan Train), which is planned to lead across five southeastern Mexican states (Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Chiapas and Tabasco). Tren Maya will interfere with more jaguar reserves, including Kaxil Kiuic and Biokmfy Calakmul on Mexico-Guatemala-Belize borders. Tren Maya crosses Mayan communal land and will disrupt the migration paths of jaguars and their prey, degrade water sources and decrease forest area.
Who Will Save the Big Cats?
McNab has worked with one of the rural communities, Paso Caballos, since 2008. The community trains and employs people to assist with conservation.
A $ 25,000 year grant is divided into two parts – a half allocated to vital services for 1,800 people, while the second half will be paid for a 20-square mile buffer zone outside the community.
The WCS provided a single easy-to-adjust barrier for one rancher. Similar covers are used to protect livestock from wolves and lions around the world. Covers started to be built by other farmers.
“We need a good monitoring system that we can share with other countries,” says Garcia-Anleu. “This Jaguar trail is a long trail, so we have to work closely with people in Belize and Mexico.” No international system like this currently exists, but several countries and organizations each have their own monitoring program.
James Callaghan calls for cooperation: “To move anything forward with the conservation of the jaguar, we have to work with all people.”
Last but not least, countries, where jaguar reserves are located, need to focus on the fight against organized crime involving narcotics and poaching.
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