Corridor Ground truthing:
Panthera seeks to identify the safest passages for jaguars from Mexico to northern Argentina. Through “Least-Cost Corridor Analysis” Panthera is able to identify where the best corridors for jaguars may lie based on a jaguar’s habitat requirements. However, this analysis cannot describe the myriad of characteristics that will ultimately determine the safest route of travel between jaguar populations or protected areas. Therefore, we have designed a protocol for “ground truthing”, or verifying, corridor routes between jaguar populations. Ground truthing relies on interviews from local people to get data on jaguar and prey locations, dominant land uses, perception of jaguars, and future developments that may threaten the corridor. An equally important component to ground truthing, is contacting local and national governmental and non-governmental organizations to determine interest and potential collaborative opportunities. The protocol also calls for performing rigorous scientific methods including land cover classification analysis of detailed satellite imagery to assess for vegetative connectivity.
After identifying the corridor boundaries based on the data collected from ground truthing, Panthera drafts an action plan for the area. The end goal of the action plan is to implement a long term conservation agenda that will either maintain the corridor area or will restore the corridor area so that jaguars may move through it in the future. The action plan incorporates many components of the JCI including education, policy/management initiatives, partnership development and collaborative projects, research and monitoring, and rancher outreach and conflict mitigation. In addition, local corridor committees are established that act as both advisory and action groups and reflect the best interests for both local people and jaguars.
Research and Monitoring:
With a staff and advisory board that has a consistent history of conducting reputable and cutting-edge science, Panthera continues research on jaguar biology, ecology, health, demographics, and dispersal to inform our conservation efforts. Monitoring jaguar populations and corridor landscapes will also be essential in evaluating management strategies and conservation actions, identifying threats, and equipping Panthera to address change as it happens.
The results of Panthera’s research and monitoring work will be instrumental in working on national and local policy initiatives and providing information and management recommendations to landowners, planning boards, government land use planning departments, policy makers, parks, and reserves. Panthera has worked within the entire spectrum of actors, from country presidents to town government officials to individual landowners. Panthera will continue to work at all levels to aid in designing and implementing policies that benefit jaguars and their prey, and on working closely with management agencies and landowners to give them the tools to increase conservation impact for jaguars.
Rancher Outreach and Mitigation:
A major threat to jaguars throughout the corridor is conflict with humans. Actual interactions between jaguars and livestock, as well as the perceptions of jaguar behavior by the ranching community, are major reasons for the continued killing of jaguars throughout Mexico, and Central and South America. Dr. Rafael Hoogesteijn, an internationally respected depredation expert, is working closely with Panthera to educate ranchers on jaguars and ways to live with them. Panthera is implementing large scale mitigation techniques on cattle ranches in the Pantanal, Brazil while also working with small scale livestock owners on simple ways to mitigate threats.
The Global Felid Genetics Program at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with Panthera, focuses on the molecular ecology of endangered felid populations, promoting the use of noninvasive sampling through the collection of felid scat. The program attempts to identify genetic threats and to provide needed technical assistance and information for applied conservation management decisions. Panthera and AMNH are now using genetic analysis to assess jaguar populations, study stress and disease, and determine the functionality of corridors by testing for relatedness between populations.
Knowledge of basic ecological principles and jaguar biology is crucial for acquiring the support and understanding of both local people and national policy makers. We are currently designing multimedia educational materials for a variety of audiences, from school children to adults. Aside from distributing these materials to key groups with whom we work, we hope to partner with local organizations that already have education programs and use them as conduits for distributing our curricula.
The jaguar corridor depends on the people that live in and around it. Without the support and assistance of these people, this initiative would be short-lived. Therefore, a large part of our effort is engaging with local landowners, ranchers, park managers, indigenous groups, mayors, universities, and non-governmental organizations. As part of Panthera’s strategy, we are working on capacity building and forming national jaguar teams in each range country so that they can lead the efforts in future jaguar conservation work.