The Pantanal, meaning swamp or marsh in Portuguese, is the largest continental wetland in the world. Encompassing an area of at least 150,000 square kilometers (an area larger than Bangladesh), the Pantanal lies mostly in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, with small portions in Paraguay and Bolivia.
Eighty percent of the Pantanal floods during the wet season, where water levels can rise as high as three meters. This region is unique in that it is home to one of the highest diversities and concentrations of fauna on the planet, including the world’s largest jaguars. This is even more impressive considering ninety-five percent of the Pantanal is privately owned and the land is primarily used for cattle ranching and agriculture.
With as many as 2,500 ‘fazendas’, or ranches, the Pantanal is home to nearly eight million heads of cattle. Because the Pantanal is also prime jaguar habitat, jaguar-cattle conflict also ensues. Many ranchers in the region perceive jaguars as ‘cattle-killers’ and believe them to be a threat to their livelihoods; sadly they are often killed on sight by ranchers, or Pantaneiros.
Pantanal Project Overview
Panthera’s Pantanal Project is a unique initiative with dual objectives: creating one of the world’s largest, intact, protected jaguar corridors, and establishing a replicable model within the corridor where cattle ranching is both financially profitable and compatible with jaguar conservation. Panthera is currently working on two contiguous Fazenda’s, totaling 700 square kilometers and with 5,000 head of cattle, all managed by an expert Pantaneiro.
At the site, a team of researchers is working to understand jaguar behavior, ecology, and their interactions with livestock. The senior project advisor, Dr. Rafael Hoogesteijn - a veterinarian, cattle rancher, and jaguar expert - works with Panthera President, Dr. Luke Hunter, and Dr. Howard Quigley, Director of Panthera's Jaguar Program, to develop research and management activities that link jaguar conservation and cattle management through better cattle husbandry techniques and rangeland management practices.
As part of the program, Pantaneiros and other local people are encouraged to help collect data, learn more about jaguars, and become involved in co-management practices. Recent increases in ecotourism in the area are already showing that jaguars could provide positive economic benefits to local livelihoods.
Panthera is working with existing partners, including private landowners, government agencies, and non-government organizations, to coordinate its own jaguar research and conservation activities with those of partners in other parts of the Pantanal. Only through a coordinated effort, on both public and private lands, can we maintain enough contiguous jaguar habitat and natural prey populations to ensure genetic connectivity, develop jaguar-friendly landscapes, and ensure a future for the jaguar in the region.
As a next step, Panthera plans to expand its efforts to create the world’s foremost jaguar research center, where experts and students can conduct research, learn new techniques, and hold workshops where lessons learned from the Pantanal can be carried to other parts of the jaguar's range.
Because the support and understanding of local communities are keys to our success, Panthera has partnered with the world-renowned Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute in New York City to bring needed healthcare and infrastructure to the region. The collaboration will advance the training of doctors in regions where their presence can enable the local population to see tangible benefits from conservation initiatives and to advance our understanding of the critical intersection of human health and wildlife conservation.
Coupled with our efforts to build a school for local children and to explore the development of ecotourism, Panthera’s partnership with the Mount Sinai School of Medicine is a critical link in outreach efforts as it provides healthcare to ranchers, offers opportunities to initiate research projects that would foster human and wildlife health and allows Panthera to provide the local community with tools to mitigate conflict and foster tolerance for jaguars.
In addition to Mount Sinai, Panthera has engaged with a variety of Brazilian partners. CENAP, the Brazilian government authority on carnivores, has been a key player in jaguar conservation science. In the coming months, we will be developing formal agreements to advance our mutual goals for long-term conservation of jaguars in Brazil, focusing first on the Pantanal.
The Pantanal is one of earth’s biological gems. The jaguars, the people, and the traditions are all part of the fabric that has kept this very special place intact for so long. Panthera will commit significant resources, bring together partners and provide the science to help ensure that the Pantanal and all of its wildlife are there for many generations to come.
- Develop protocols for data collection and storage for satellite telemetry, ground-base telemetry, transect monitoring, camera monitoring, and other forms of data collection in the Pantanal;
- Develop a reporting system with the Ranch hands for jaguar kills and jaguar sign;
- Continue monitoring of research efforts in our northern Pantanal ranches;
- Increase our collaboration and support of CENAP efforts in the Pantanal;
- Develop overall research and monitoring strategy for our northern Pantanal ranches;
- Assess and develop cooperative agreements with local government authorities, NGOs, and neighboring ranches;
- Assess and develop additional scientific presence at the ranches, including the assessment of additional personnel and university partners.
- Mount Sinai School of Medicine Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute
Read Panthera's Jaguar Report Card: The State of the Jaguar.
Click here to: Meet the Jaguar