Study suggests that protected and indigenous areas are key to conserving jaguars in the amazon | WWF

Study suggests that protected and indigenous areas are key to conserving jaguars in the amazon

Posted on 26 May 2020
Pantera onca
© Y.-J. Rey-Millet / WWF
  • This is the first transboundary study of this species.
  • The study carried out in the Napo – Putumayo Conservation Corridors provides relevant data to learn about the status of jaguar population in the three countries.
  • About 90% of its population is in the Amazon Basin. 
The loss of jaguar habitat is considered the greatest threat that these felines face, since they require large areas of territory to survive. The development of infrastructure, the expansion of agricultural and livestock activities, and the loss of vegetation, are factors that have degraded and fragmented their habitat.

Taking these issues into account, a recent study suggests that both protected areas and indigenous lands play a determining role in the maintenance of terrestrial vertebrates in tropical forests, such as the jaguar. These areas serve as refuges for threatened species.

The study was carried out by scientists from WWF Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, together with local researchers and indigenous communities. This work, arose out of the need to learn about the jaguar population in a border corridor of the three countries located in the amazon. This is the first Jaguar population investigation within a national park in Peru (Gueppi Sekine National Park) and one of the first in indigenous lands and protected areas of Colombia and Ecuador ( Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and Predio Putumayo Indigenous Reserve, respectively).

This is a meticulous research that lasted two years and has just been published in the Global Ecology and Conservation Magazine, the results of which will allow defining conservation strategies for this iconic species. Thanks to this research, the presence of approximately 2,000 specimens in these three territories was estimated.
“Transboundary conservation landscapes that include protected areas and indigenous lands with sustainable production systems are real examples that it is possible to maintain a fortress in this part of the Amazon for vertebrates, like the jaguar, which moves across borders. Our results indicate that, fortunately, this part of the northwest Amazon has not yet been substantially modified by human activities” the study indicates.
Studying the guardian of the Northern Amazon

Since 2017, WWF and researchers form local and indigenous communities have worked on this investigation to determine the occupation and abundance of jaguars and their prey by installing a total of 129 camera trap stations in three areas of the Napo-Putumayo Corridor: Cuyabeno Fauna Production Reserve (Ecuador), Gueppi-Sekime National Park (Peru) and in the Preduma Putumayo Indigenous Territory (Colombia). This effort involved the analysis of 64,700 photos after 10,500 hours of work over 540 km2.

This count was carried out considering a particularity of the jaguar, the pattern of spots that are located on its fur. Known as “rosettes” these are unique to each individual, thanks to which it is possible to identify them. In addition, a variable that influences in maximizing the detection of this feline is having installed the cameras in clear paths, the jaguars being territorial, they use these spaces to patrol and this behavior allows a greater probability of obtaining recaptures in the photos.

Indicator of a healthy environment

The jaguar is one of the indicators to measure the conservation status of forests. A healthy ecosystem is characterized by a viable population of jaguars and the prey it feeds on. In addition, it is considered an umbrella specie, since its conservation ensures the conservation of other species with which it lives and feeds on.
In order to maintain viable populations of species with a large territory requirement, as in the case of the jaguar, WWF encourages the maintenance of biological corridors, because their conservation is linked to the connectivity of landscapes, which ensures genetic exchange between different populations of jaguars, throughout the Amazon. For the jaguar, the Napo-Putumayo corridor is of great importance because it demonstrates the enormous vale of this area made up of protected areas and indigenous lands, as a barrier to one of the greatest threats in the Amazon: deforestation” Said Vania Tejeda, Biodiversity Officer of WWF Peru.

Jaime Cabrera, biologist and researcher from WWF Colombia and one of the authors of the scientific article, highlights that something key in the study has been the dialogue between traditional indigenous and western knowledge. In the Colombian case, the monitors of the Murui-muina indigenous people were trained in the use of GPS, geographic information systems and cartography, now they have become researchers since they began with the interpretation of the information according to what they knew or what they called these species. A similar process occurred in Ecuador, where, based on the knowledge and information obtained in the process, the local monitors of the kichwa community of Zancudo Cocha promoted the development of an education program in local schools.
Protecting the jaguar, amazing feline

The jaguar is an animal that is characterized by its strength, robust and muscular body, wide head, small and rounded ears. It measures between 1.5 and 2.4 meters, weights between 45 and 120kg and lives between 10 to 12 years. Their bite is considered one of the strongest among the big felines. In addition, more than 22 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have been identified in their diet.

However, as a consequence of deforestation and poaching, it faces conflicts with humans, because, by destroying its habitat, this species does not find its food in the jungle, needing to seek other resources such as livestock and, in retaliation, it is attacked. Likewise, It is hunted for its parts because in recent years the black market that demands its skin and fangs has grown.

“In order to protect it in the long term, WWF promotes a coexistence approach between nature and human beings, for this reason it contributes to the conservation of jaguars and the places where they live, the conservation of other species, and the provision of ecosystem services for human beings” added Vania. In this sense, WWF encourages the carrying out of sustainable productive activities and the work with the communities that inhabit the natural protected areas. “It is essential to work hand in hand with indigenous and local communities that live with the jaguar. Their knowledge of the territory is a key tool, which is why WWF involves local actors in research and conservation efforts” say Jessica Pacheco, Forest and Freshwater Officer at WWF Ecuador.

WWF maintains a Regional Plan, “Jaguar Road Map 2030” (New York 2018), to save the largest feline in Latin America and its ecosystems. In this way, as a part of the strategy promoted to 2030, it seeks to work on a continental network of priority landscapes that ensures the permanence and recovery of jaguars, their habitats and the ecosystem services they provide. At the same time that connectivity is generated within and between protected areas, the sustainable development of the communities that live with this feline is promoted.

Therefore, transboundary landscapes are opportunities to awaken interest and collaboration between governments so that the decisions made for the conservation of this species transcend geographical limits. Most of the time, the green forests that we see from air, are not necessarily healthy forests because they have trees, the can be defaulted forests and that, eventually, in the future, are affected by the absence of living beings that maintain the structure of themselves. This is the importance of maintaining these ecological relationships between the organisms that inhabit ecosystems.

Pantera onca
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