Ancient South American cultures have always had a strong spiritual connection with the Jaguar, and even in modern times, mankind's fascination with the big cat has endured. Because of the animal's renowned elusiveness, Jaguar watching tours to countries like Brazil and Guyana, in South America, are amongst the most popular and sought after of all wildlife experiences. |
As one of the least-understood big cats, they are also among the most vulnerable to habitat decimation and endangerment from human intervention. But with a growing culture of conservation, leaders of a number of nations have pledged their support for the recognition of an established 'corridor', which links key habitats from Mexico right through down to Argentina. Dedicated Jaguar watching tours will take participants through regions of habitat that form part of this important wildlife corridor.
Recognising the Corridor
In relatively recent times, through extensive DNA technology, scientists were able to determine that there was only one Jaguar genome throughout the Americas. The surprising discovery meant that the big cats clearly travelled far beyond their own 'range' via a corridor of habitat that passes through a large number of countries and many areas of human inhabitation.
High-profile USA conservation group Panthera (whose CEO is the world's leading expert on the big cat, Alan Rabinowitz) set up the Jaguar Corridor Initiative with the aim of re-establishing the corridor under a conservation agreement that would ensure the animals' protection – identifying the network of trails and allowing them to pass through farms and urban areas without fear of human intervention.
Panthera has achieved the impressive task of getting the environment ministries of 14 of the 18 countries where they have identified breeding populations to sign up to the agreement, including Colombia, Guyana (where the big cat is the national animal), Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. The combined range is around six million square kilometres, and Panthera's is the only programme that is dedicated to preserving the entire area.
Focused on preserving the genetic integrity of the big cat and its long term conservation, the initiative is using high tech 'camera traps' in order to collect data. The information will be used to establish existing numbers, the extent of territorial movement, and the measure of population growth or decline in various habitats. The extensive network of cameras is equipped with heat sensitive motion detectors, which fire off when a large mass passes by. As every Jaguar's markings are unique, researchers can obtain data on an individual's movements over a period of time – gradually building up a definitive 'roadmap' of the corridor.
With the data, the initiative is working with governments and big businesses to create a sustainable, ecologically and financially sound solution to maintaining an acceptable rate of development while preserving the passage of the big cat. Scientists and researchers from Panthera are also running programmes designed to minimise threat to the animal from ranchers, by encouraging 'anti-predator techniques' – like the construction of protective livestock enclosures. Along with wildlife companies offering specialised Jaguar watching tours to dense South American wildlife habitats, organisations like Panthera are helping to spread awareness of the need to focus on the conservation of this magnificent animal. As CEO Alan Rabinowitz eloquently puts it: "Although human beings are relative latecomers to the story of the Jaguar, they are the crucial determinant in what comes next for the species.”
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer. If you’re looking for Jaguar watching tours, Naturetrek specialises in expert-led natural history and wildlife tours worldwide. Naturetrek brings over 25 years of experience to Jaguar watching tours in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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