Its power and ferocity have always impressed the population of all America, creating a confused mixture of fear, respect and veneration. The Jaguar (Panthera onca), the largest feline in America, is suffering from several threats, reducing its population to few individuals. In Argentina, its territory is limited to three corners on its northern borderline, with no more than 200 animals. This is the southern edge the jaguar’s range in America. The Jaguar Project “Proyecto Yaguareté” is developed in collaboration between Argentina and Brazil with the aim to protect the last individuals of the king of the jungle. (Para español, miren este articulo).The Jaguar Project seeks to ensure the long-term conservation of a viable population of jaguar and the species with which it coexists in the Atlantic Forest. The jaguar, or American tiger, is the largest cat of the continent. Jaguars still surviving in Argentina are the southernmost populations of this species that historically lived up to many kilometres further South, including part of Patagonia – Argentina.
Today, most of jaguar populations are seriously threatened and the few ones remaining in southern South America are in need of urgent conservation measures. The conservation efforts are focused on generating information on the state of the jaguar and its habitat as well as understanding the threats to which it is exposed so as to implement effective conservation measures leading to its preservation.
Importance of the Jaguar Conservation
The importance of preserving the jaguar is based on different ethical, cultural and ecological reasons. From the ecological point of view, it is a priority species because it fulfills several roles:
It is an “umbrella” species whose high habitat requirements ensure that if we protect this species we preserve many others having lower demands.
It is an “indicator” species, as its presence is a sign that the forest still contains a species diversity essential for the jaguar survival.
It is a “key” species. Being a large carnivore, it plays a fundamental role as a regulator of food chains in the jungle.
Additionally, it has great value as an “emblematic or flagship” species that can be used in environmental education programs, being effective in attracting the attention of the general public and conservation program sponsors (it is declared as « National Monument » of the Argentinian Republic).
International Cooperation for the Jaguar Future
More than 300 people from more than 50 institutions have collaborated in the project since its inception, integrating people from the triple border countries of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, but also professionals and institutions from other parts of the world. The CEIBA (Research Center for the Atlantic Forest), the Institute of Subtropical Biology, Ecology department of the Missions Province and the National Parks Administration (parts of the Argentinian government) and NGOs such as the Wildlife Foundation, WWF, Panthera and Carnivôros do Iguaçu collaborate to achieve this challenging mission.
In paralel and more generally, a Jaguar Corridor Initiative is undertaken internationally to protect jaguars across their entire six million km2 range. In partnership with governments, corporations, and local communities, Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is working to preserve the genetic integrity of the jaguar by connecting and protecting core jaguar populations in human landscapes from northern Mexico to Argentina. For another example of jaguar conservation in Belize, read this article.