Phoenix Public Affairs Firm Promotes Biodiversity
Ecosystems and biodiversity around the world are under assault like never before. Predators at the top of the food chain are at extreme risk—including humans.
Conservationists are joining together in a collective call for action to defend apex predators, including grizzly bears, wolves and now jaguars. The theory is that these dominant predators require healthy ecosystems to survive. Saving these species requires a holistic approach that can save entire ecosystems from collapse. Saving ecosystems around the world is an existential issue for humanity, which means that failure is not an option.
Wolves, jaguars and grizzly bears once dominated the wilds of the American West. The westward expansion of civilization and agriculture ran over anything and everything that got in their way—including predators, Native Americans or the law. The natural world, the natural order and the glory of god has been sacrificed in the name of so-called progress. Some described this human onslaught as manifest destiny. Short-sighted destruction is more accurate. Even with corrective action, most of the scars will last forever.
Jaguars once roamed the central mountains of the southwestern United States for hundreds of years until they were almost driven to extinction after government hunters shot the last one in the 1960s. A few solitary jaguars have been seen in Arizona and New Mexico since, but no breeding pairs. The Arizona Game & Fish Department demonstrated its ineptitude and corruption in 2010, when it captured and killed Macho B—one of the most famous of the solo cats.
Most recently, Trump’s plans for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico would have slammed the door on jaguar recovery in the U.S. These struggling big cats need an open corridor between the population in Mexico and the open spaces in the American Southwest.
Currently, jaguars live in 19 different countries. Now, after more than a 50-year absence in the U.S., conservationists are calling for the jaguar’s return to their native habitat in a study that outlines what the rewilding effort may look like. The paper was published this month in Conservation Science and Practice.
A study published in the journal Oryx in March, suggests that that 2 million acres from central Arizona to New Mexico could support a stable population of 90-150 jaguars. The suggested area is located in regions that humans do not densely populate, public land, state and national parks, and tribal lands. Bringing jaguars back to the U.S. is crucial to species conservation as the cats are listed as near threatened on the IUCN Red List. Reintroduction could also help restore native ecosystems.
“The jaguar lived in these mountains long before Americans did. If done collaboratively, reintroduction could enhance the economy of this region and the ecology of this incredible part of jaguar range,” said Eric Sanderson, senior conservation ecologist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and lead author of the study.
Conservationists emphasize that the area proposed was not considered in 2018 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife investigated and proposed a recovery plan for jaguar reintroductions. In the plan, a habitat for only six jaguars was set aside within the entire U.S., the Independent reports. Officials say conservation efforts would focus on protecting habitats, educating the public about jaguars to aid social acceptance, and banishing poaching.
Researchers developed the plan to begin the conversation of reintroducing jaguars.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials have not reviewed the proposal. Proponents expect some opposition by hunters and ranchers who also oppose efforts to reintroduce the Mexican grey wolf in the American Southwest.
“This represents a turning point for this iconic wild cat, identifying a path forward for restoration of the jaguar to its historic range in the United States,” said study author Sharon Wilcox, the Texas representative for Defenders of Wildlife. “It should serve as the starting point for a renewed conversation among stakeholders.”
Ranchers in the U.S. can look further south for an impressive case study. In Columbia, rancher Jorge Barragan has declared a truce with jaguars. He is willing sacrifice a few head of cattle to help conserve the biggest cat in the Americas.
“A culture was created of killing the predator to stop livestock losses,” said Barragan. “We’re doing the opposite.”
Barragan inherited a deep respect for nature from his father, but his passion for jaguar conservation began in 2009, when he saw a photo of a jaguar on his farm. Barragan proceeded to devote part of his family farm to jaguar conservation. He believes that jaguars are worth much more than any cattle that they might take from him.
Beyond Barragan’s ranch, jaguar habitat is under siege. Palm oil plantations and rice plantations are consuming critical jaguar habitat. In many cases farms and ranches are all that are left of former jungles. With nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, many jaguars are desperate for food and survival. We can’t conserve wildlife if we don’t conserve habitat.
According to Panthera, there are approximately 15,000 jaguars in Colombia and a total of about 170,000 jaguars throughout the Americas. The species once stretched from the southern United States to northern Argentina, but its former range has been cut in half. Jaguars are extinct in several countries and climate change is compounding the problem. About 55 other Colombian farms are working to coexist with the jaguars. Halting deforestation is one of the most important strategies.
The jaguar is listed as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Population numbers are decreasing, with farming, ranching, residential and commercial development among the main threats.
Jaguar-livestock conflict is a serious threat to jaguar survival. There are few areas within jaguar range that are safe for these amazing creatures. Restoring the jaguar and its habitat in the American Southwest can help save the species, while helping save humanity.
It also makes sense for ranchers to promote overall biodiversity and co-exist with wolves. Wolf packs that are broken up by trapping and shooting are forced to find easier prey—livestock. Disruption of the pack impairs their ability to hunt and survive. This often leads to more attacks on livestock.
It’s time for the cattle industry to stop defending subsidized grazing on public lands and start defending ecosystems, biodiversity and predators. These grazing permits and other public land policies benefit very few cattlemen (multi-national cattle corporations), while putting all other producers at a competitive disadvantage. Western cattlemen who hold these rare permits have been taking advantage of their neighbors and competitors for generations. These are the wolves that are doing the most harm to the cattle industry.