By Vern and Lori Gieger
Year of the Jaguar
Mexican government declared 2005 the year of the jaguar. Historically
the jaguar inhabited forests and jungles from the southern Unites States
to Argentina. They now only survive in a few small isolated areas. In
California the last jaguar was killed in the 1860s. In Arizona the last
jaguar was seen in the 1980’s. Studies indicated that jaguars
have lost over 50% of their range in Mexico since 1900.
In 1973, Jaguars were listed on Appendix
I of Cites, making it illegal to trade their skins or parts
for commercial gain. Cites listing, in combination with anti-fur
campaigns and the development and enforcement of national legislation,
helped reduce the trade in jaguar skins. Despite the fact jaguar hunting
is illegal, results from studies done in Mexico indicated approx. 31%
of the jaguar’s current population is threatened by indiscriminate
The jaguar is the third largest member
of the feline family, the largest in the Americas, and is alleged to
be strongest of all wildcats. The jaguar has no natural enemy except
for man. The disappearance of the jaguar is due to human encroachment.
When animals and man compete for the same “real estate,”
the animal usually loses.
Remaining jungles and forests are being
destroyed at an alarming rate. Areas are being cleared for agriculture,
logging, etc. Not only is the jaguar losing its habitat, but in some
areas it must also compete with man for the same prey. Due to this rivalry
not only is the jaguar’s natural prey reduced, but the jaguars
are also killed to eliminate the competition.
Lack of habitat protection; typically,
the most effective strategy to conserve bio-diversity is to separate
areas of protection from areas of use. But often, parks and preserves
are in the same areas in which natural resource exploitation occurs.
This, coupled with the fact that jaguars make up a large, mobile specie
that roam throughout a variety of habitats-makes the creation of jaguar
reserves extremely difficult.
In Mexico, studies indicate in the areas
most critical for jaguar conservation, only 4 % of the total area was
effectively protected. Clearly, there is a need for more protected areas
and enforcement of existing protected areas as well as new approaches
to jaguar conservation. Could there be another solution? Eco hunting?
Safari Club International (SCI) has a new category for cat hunters that
want to pursue these trophy animals: darted jaguar.
Venezuela and Mexico have begun exploring
the possibility of offering “green” jaguar hunts. In this
case, the hunter would pay a fee for the opportunity to chase and shoot
a jaguar with tranquilizing drugs. The drugged jaguar would then be
fitted with a radio collar and monitored as part of a research project.
If this type of hunting of jaguars is accepted and becomes an alternative,
would it help not only save the jaguar but other species, as well as
their habitat? At this time the implications of using such approaches
for jaguar conservation are unknown and would need to be carefully monitored.
“What is man without the beasts?
If the beasts were gone, man would die from a loneliness of spirit.
For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are
connected.”—Chief Seattle, 1786-1866 (attributed)