In the United States, the jaguar is classified as an endangered species. Due to habitat loss, the reluctant warrior is on the verge of extinction. The species crosses the US-Mexico border on a regular basis. Since 1985, when the animal was identified as an endangered species, conservation efforts have been ongoing. Most conservationists blame habitat loss and overhunting for the declining jaguar population. It’s become such a rare animal that conservationists have set up a hotline in case one is discovered in the wild. The majestic jaguar was observed sitting on a mosquito tree in Arizona by a bunter in 2011. (Alanen 28). Its photos were instantly taken and circulated to the conservationists to identify the animal and retrieve it from the desert landscape. Though such events are rare, it still shows that the jaguar still roams the southeast desert in Arizona, in search of food and water. In the past two decades, at least five jaguars have been spotted in the open in the USA and Mexico (Alanen 29).
Initially, the jaguar traversed the Arizona hills, up to the Grand Canyon. Such spread depict the expansive habitat for the creature. However, since 1800s, their habitat has been shrinking albeit the growing human population (Kalen 48). The early settlements pushed the jaguar farther south to the US-Mexico border. Most of these tracts of land were turned into ranches and for farming purposes. In these times, the jaguars were labelled as predators, a danger to the farming enterprise. They were hunted due to their attacks on livestock. The federal agencies and the state instituted efforts to control them. Some of the efforts included offering bounties for any captured jaguar which were then sent to the parks where they would not roam freely into peoples farms. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was the government organization meant to protect the US wildlife and habitat. During the 1940s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service could offer up to $5 (equivalent to in current economical standards) for jaguars captured by villagers (Kalen 51).
Under the Endangered Species Conservation Act (the predecessor of the Endangered Species Act), the jaguar was only protected from the public. Federal protection was not accorded to the animal. It was only in 1997 that the creature was listed as an endangered species (Scanvara 148). The federal programs for its protection spread across the US states, from the southeastern states to the southwest parts of the country. Currently, the jaguar can be found in 19 countries in South America, from the rugged mountain ranges of Arizona to the swampy areas of the Amazon in Brazil. Jaguars eat a variety of food from the turtles, deer, and the rabbits to the opossums and caimans. With its powerful jaws, it crunches through the protective shells of the turtles. Its large paws and growls help it in hunting. Actually, the jaguar is the only big cat in the Americas. Being a big cat means that it is the only species of the cat family in the Americas which can roar. Their skin is donned with spots, usually referred to as rosettes. Their spots are unique, meaning that each jaguar has unique sets of spots which are different from another jaguar. Jaguars tend to be solo hunters, and only come into a pack to breed(Kalen 49).
The major threats to the existence of the jaguar include poaching, habitat loss and human intolerance. In the US, jaguars are the most poached species. Poachers usually hunt the jaguars for their prized skin. Their skin are considered unique, and hold a high value in the market. Traditionally, the communities in the Amazon and to the southeast of the USA held the jaguars skin in high regards. One would be considered a warrior only of he had killed a jaguar. Evidence of killing a jaguar include donning clothes or shoes made from the animals skin (Scanvara 150). However, this aspect has been downtrodden, as it is illegal to kill the jaguar. Mostly, people use the jaguars skin for fashion statement, rather than for ego purposes, like the traditional communities. Artefacts, jewelry or clothes made from the jaguar are highly priced, which further encourages some poachers to kill them for commercial purposes.
Habitat loss is another driving factor for diminishing jaguar population. Currently, significant habitat loss for the jaguar is evident in the southeast US, northern Brazil, southeastern Argentina and northern Mexico (Stoner 33). The habitat loss can be attributed to high deforestation rates, establishment of ranches and even the infrastructure projects across the jaguar habitats. Many of the initial idle lands are subdivided for residential purposes. Forests are cleared to create space for these residential projects. In the process, trees and bushes are cleared thereby leaving the jaguar much exposed. Their skin is meant to help them hide from their target before pouncing on them. This is inhibited as their targets can easily identify them and scamper for safety.
Human intolerance stems from the predatory instincts of the jaguar. Most people, especially ranchers see the jaguar as a threat to their livestock. Therefore, jaguars would be shot on sight to protect their prized cattle heads. This forces the jaguar to recede further into the mountain and desert landscapes where food is scarce, unlike in the forests (Stoner 41). With little food, growth and even breeding is hampered. As a result of these killings, their population has dwindled tremendously that it is a rare phenomenon to spot one in the open, even in the forests.
Conservation efforts have been instigated by the American countries. One of the measures instigated is by listing the animal as an endangered species. Being listed as an endangered species, the jaguar receives more attention and protection across the South American turf. Consequently, policies have been drafted to protect their habitat. The initial forest cover (those near the jaguars) are reclaimed and reforestation process instigated (Scanvara 151). In northern Brazil, the forest cover has been reclaimed to encourage the breeding and hunting ground for the jaguar.
The US and Mexico have developed joint conservation techniques for the jaguar. One such technique is the development of the Jaguar Recovery Team (JRT). The team focuses on the terrain in the southeast of the US and to the north of Mexico where the jaguar is usually sighted. The team receives backing from the US and Mexican governments in their various recovery projects for the jaguar. Some of the projects include the study of the genetic mechanisms of the creature, their survival rate with environmental changes and their breeding habits. Understanding such information helps provide perfect conditions and/or environment for the breeding of the creature. Other efforts include the construction of crossing points for the jaguar where infrastructure like roads fragment their habitat. In fact, the US and Mexico have opened their shared border to allow the jaguar traverse the terrain of both countries during the different times of the year. Usually, the jaguar crosses the US-Mexico border in search of food and water at either side.
Funds drive have been developed to complement the conservation efforts. The wildlife organizations have set up donation programs to complement their efforts for the conservation of the jaguar. Some of the programs include the Payment for Ecosystem Services, and organizing marathons and even community programs for the jaguar conservation (Alanen 27). The proceeds from these drives are used to purchase equipment like cameras which help monitor the movement of the species. Being able to track their movements helps the organizations know their location, their number and even in treating them. This prevents poachers from tracking the creature and even killing them as they have phobia of being busted in the act by homeland security.
Furthermore, the conservation organizations have integrated community education programs to enlighten the community on the essence of the jaguar in our ecosystem. People have the negative perception of the jaguar as a predator, which are dangerous for human existence. These organizations are aiming to change this notion and encourage human tolerance for the creature. In fact, the jaguar is a shy creature. The mere presence of a human being scares it off into the bushes. However, they pose a danger to livestock. Governments should try to ensure that the conservation parks are well fenced to prevent human-wildlife conflict. Future legislations like the Trumps notion of a wall on the Mexican border should be discouraged as it hampers the conservation efforts for the jaguar (Lallensack 27).
Alanen, Marit. “Conserving Arizona’s Resdent Jaguars.” Endangered Species Bulletin (2015): 27-30. print.
Kalen, Sam. “Landscape Shifting Paradigm for the Endangered Species Act.” Natural Resources Journal 55.1 (2014): 47-104.
Lallensack, Rachel. “Lawmaker’s Move to Funding Trump’s Border Wall, Worrying Biologists Trying to Save Endangered Species.” Science and Policy (2017). pdf.
Scanvara, Colleen. “Jaguar Critical Habitat Designation Causes for Southwestern Ranchers.” Rangelands (2015): 144-151. pdf.
Stoner, Kelly J.. et al. “Jaguar Habitat Connectivity and Identification of Potential Road Miitgation Locations in the Northwestern Recovery Unit for the Jaguar.” Report to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (2015).