New York, NY - A staggering 1,470 jaguars in the Brazilian Amazon are estimated to have been killed or displaced from 2016-2019 due to accelerated deforestation and wildfires, including the 2019 “Day of Fire,” according to a new scientific study co-authored by Panthera.
Published byConservation Science and Practice, the study was conducted by Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul and Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Mamíferos Carnívoros-Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (CENAP-ICMBio).
Scientists combined previously assessed jaguar population estimates with deforestation data for ten states in the Brazilian Amazon from August 2016 to December 2019, sourced from a satellite imagery database. This time period incorporates destruction dealt by the “Day of Fire” on August 9 and 10, 2019, during which illegal loggers, miners, ranchers and farmers utilized social media to synchronize the setting of fires in an unprecedented act of coordinated arson.
Accounting for nearly 2% of the region’s jaguar population, the conservative estimate of 1,470 jaguars lost during this time includes 488 individuals in 2016, 360 in 2017, 268 in 2018 and 354 jaguars killed or displaced in 2019. Findings additionally indicate that 300 jaguars are believed to lose their lives each year in the Brazilian Amazon due to fires and habitat loss, not accounting for additional human-induced threats including conflict over livestock.
Panthera Conservation Scientist and study co-author Fernando Tortato stated, “Headlines of wildfires devastating large swaths of habitats, even fast-moving wildlife populations and human communities are becoming the new normal around the globe, with ‘fire season’ emerging as a perennial state. But as our research shows, the scale of loss for jaguars alone with at least 300 individuals killed or displaced each year, is not a norm we can accept.”
Tortato continued, “Avoiding a constant state of triage with the rescue and rehabilitation of jaguars and other wildlife burn victims, we must proactively utilize advanced technology to monitor and mitigate habitat loss in real-time and implement sustainable, common-sense policies to prevent fires in the first place.”
Moving forward, scientists suggest the long-term adoption of the same methods used to acquire this study’s findings, including weekly satellite monitoring of jaguar displacement and estimation of jaguar losses to prioritize real-time and costly conservation interventions in areas home to the greatest number of jaguars.
National and state-level policy solutions also exist, including the creation of protected areas shown to reduce habitat loss, improved cattle production, reduction of meat consumption, promotion of beef and wood certification and centralized governance.
Panthera Chief Scientist and Tiger Program Director Dr. John Goodrich explained, “When habitat like that of the Brazilian Amazon is lost, it – and the jaguars that called this landscape home – tend to be lost forever. Unlikely to recover to its previous wild form, these forests are presumably destined to support agricultural developments, grasslands or livestock production, particularly with Brazil serving as the world’s second largest producer of beef.”
Goodrich continued, “While the jaguar is an impressively resilient species, it has already lost 40% of its range, and the disappearance of further habitat squeezes the species’ home range and its likelihood of survival in the long-term.”
The Amazon forest biome is biologically the richest region on Earth, hosting approximately 25% of global biodiversity, and is a major contributor to the natural cycles required for the functioning of the Earth. The region is also home to 33 million people and approximately 420 indigenous communities who rely directly on its resources for survival.
While the species is more mobile than many others, jaguar refugees that do manage to survive wildfires and habitat loss are still sure to face a number of threats, including loss of prey that are slow-moving, nocturnal and less adept at escape. As they move into new and unknown territories, jaguar survivors are also likely to face conflict with other jaguars and particularly people whose livestock make easy targets for much-needed food.
Home to the world’s largest continental wetland and among the highest density of jaguars anywhere, the Brazilian Pantanal and scores of jaguars, pumas, ocelots and other wildlife in the region have also fallen victim to recent blazes. Active since 2012, Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project works to create one of the world’s largest, contiguous jaguar corridors, mitigate human-jaguar conflict through conservation demonstration ranches, foster a flourishing ecotourism industry and operate conservation education initiatives through the Panthera-built Jofre Velho School.
The Pantanal Jaguar Project is operated through Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative (JCI) - the only conservation program that seeks to protect jaguars across their six million km2 range from Mexico to Argentina.