The (WCS) Wildlife Conservation Society reports the publication of a plan to help guide multi-institutional efforts in conserving the jaguar (Panthera onca) in the Amazon basin.
A region known to conservationists as the central Amazon Jaguar Conservation Unit is the largest jaguar stronghold in the world. It encompasses parts of Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname. However, even in this vast area, changes in biological diversity and jaguar populations can come quickly.
Huge extents of formerly unbroken forest, experts say, have already been lost to conversion to monoculture crops, cattle ranching, and hydro-electric, mining, and transportation projects. Development is inevitable in the Amazon, so the question becomes how to best ensure both sustainable development for local communities along with a secure future that includes the area's icon of functional ecosystems: the jaguar.
Recognizing the need to address that challenge, several leading Latin American conservation organizations working in the Amazon basin recently met in Quito, Ecuador, to review regional jaguar conservation efforts and outline priorities to maintain healthy jaguar populations in the Amazon in perpetuity. The result of the meeting is a document titled "Memorias Del Taller Internacional Planificando La Conservación Del Jaguar En La Amazonía."
The unique assemblage included experts from the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Instituto de Desenvolvimento Sustentável Mamirauá, Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humboldt, Fundación Omacha, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Ministerio del Ambiente de Ecuador, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, E.tech, TRAFFIC, WWF, Panthera, and WCS.
The participants drew on their extensive experience to develop a plan around five central themes to help secure the long-term future of jaguars: Landscape and Corridor Scale Conservation; Research and Monitoring; Conflict Management; Legislation, Policy and Administration; and Education, Training and Communication.
"The main recommendations to come out of the meeting were related to the importance of working at large landscape scales to conserve meaningful populations of jaguars," said Dr. Rob Wallace, Amazon Landscape Conservation Expert at WCS. "This landscape approach requires an integrated threats-based strategy involving a series of long-term partnerships with territorial stakeholders such as protected areas, indigenous territories, municipal governments and others. WCS is proud of our long-standing conservation commitments to some of the most outstanding natural wilderness areas in the Amazon."
Dr. Emiliano Esterci Ramalho, Monitoring Coordinator at the Mamiraua Sustainable Development Institute and a groundbreaking jaguar researcher in the flooded forests of central Amazonian Brazil underlined the importance of collective conservation efforts. "This meeting encouraged us to create the Jaguar Conservation Alliance in Brazil, a multi-institutional initiative that aims to coordinate jaguar research and conservation efforts in the Amazon, and to ensure that our collective efforts amount to more than just the sum of their parts," Ramalho said.
The document also includes a post-workshop addition highlighting the emerging threat of hunting and illegal trade of jaguars in the Amazon and beyond. Forty years ago, jaguars benefited from international trade policy decisions such as the inclusion in 1975 of the jaguar in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that prohibited all commercial trade in spotted cat skins for the international fur trade. Since then, in areas with effective conservation measures, jaguar populations have stabilized and in a number of cases, bounced back. However, conservation is an ongoing process of vigilance and actions to counter new threats. Jaguar hunting for trade has re-emerged, this time for teeth and other body parts for markets in Asia.
"Protecting and restoring critical habitats that also provide connectivity between habitats are the main goals for which we have to work together in order to ensure the survival of jaguars in the Amazon River Basin," said Diego Amorocho. WWF Species Program Coordinator Latin America & Caribbean
"The globally significant Amazon jaguar population merits strong international cooperation not only to proactively maintain its habitat and prey, but also to actively and effectively counter any resumption in trade in jaguar parts," said Dr. John Polisar, Jaguar Conservation Program Coordinator for WCS.
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