As has been the case for indigenous peoples throughout history, for many wildlife lovers, the stealthy big cat Panthera onca, the Jaguar, holds a special fascination. The opportunity to encounter these giants of the jungle up close and personal in their natural habitat on a Jaguar tour is one of the most fulfilling wildlife experiences available. |
The plight facing Panthera onca's survival is a very real one, and its status is currently listed at 'near-threatened' level. But while the privilege of a Jaguar tour is most often experienced in key big cat habitat in the Brazilian Pantanal, for example, there are other, less high-profile areas where, through dedicated conservation efforts, this magnificent animal continues to survive.
Panthera onca in Bolivia's Alto Madidi
The region of Alto Madidi is situated at the juxtaposition of the Andean foothills and the Amazonian floodplains, in Bolivia. A remote area of extreme beauty and biodiversity, the abundant wildlife of the Madidi National Park is the focus of a dedicated team of conservationists from the World Conservation Society (WCS) and Identidad Madidi. For more than 17 years the project has been collecting, collating and monitoring research on the resident wildlife population. The result is an extensive bank of long-term data on important species in the park, including the giant otter, Lowland Tapir, White-lipped and Collared Peccaries, and the Jaguar. Gathering Data
By use of long-term camera trapping (where cameras with infrared sensors are set up to capture images of wildlife without the need for human presence) in Madidi, researchers have been able to determine not only the numbers of the big cat in specific areas, but also the size of their individual home ranges. This information is vital in order to understand the most urgent and appropriate conservation action required in the forests in and adjacent to Madidi.
By being able to identifying individual animals (by their unique rosette markings), researchers are able to answer questions of population density, ranging, mating and hunting habits, and whether conservation efforts already in place in the park are proving effective in terms of a population viewpoint. To the last question, with data having been analysed since 1998 when the first camera traps were installed, the answer has been resoundingly positive, proving that the management of the park has been successful in maintaining the stability of not only the Jaguar population, but also many other threatened species of Amazonian wildlife.
A Wider Benefit of Focused Conservation
As well as benefiting the wildlife of Alto Madidi, the programme has had a knock-on effect in surrounding areas, with numbers increasing in the surrounding Tuichi and Hondo valleys. Being much more accessible than the Alto Madidi, it's in this area much of the region's ecotourism has been established. With the expansion of ecotourism and support from the Bolivian government, illegal hunting and logging (a major cause of declining wildlife numbers) has been greatly reduced, resulting in increasing populations of many species, including Panthera onca.
Camera trap data captured in the period from 2001 to 2014 revealed that Jaguar density has increased ten-fold in that time – an increase from original data that showed just one animal per 100 square kilometres.
Ensuring the ongoing survival of the plants and wildlife of the Amazon Basin – the largest tropical rainforest in the world – is incumbent upon not only the efforts of organizations like WCS, but also local governments and indigenous communities. The need to share effective management models, like that of Alto Madidi, is vital to the long-term conservation of the entire region's unique wildlife species.
Experience the Privilege of a Jaguar Tour
Ecotourism plays an important part in raising the profile of the threatened species of the Amazonian Basin. The opportunity to embark on a professional Jaguar tour to the Brazilian Pantanal, to encounter abundant numbers of the big cat in its natural habitat, is a privilege afforded only through the sustained conservation efforts of the world's dedicated scientists and researchers.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar tour itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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