Fazenda Jofre Velho is a jaguar research base in the middle of 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of the Brazilian Pantanal. With the support of the Rainforest Trust and other generous donors, Panthera is using this area to demonstrate how jaguar conservation can benefit ranchers, promote ecotourism, and help local people in general.
It’s important that people who live alongside wild cats reap the benefits of wildlife conservation, both for themselves and for their children. At Jofre Velho, Panthera has built and now runs a local school that is educating 17 children during the day and a group of 12 adults at night.
Because the ranch is just off the Transpantaneira Road—the major transportation artery for the area—and sits on the edge of the Cuiabá-São Lourenço River, the kids come by car or motorboat. They are the children from neighboring ranches, sons and daughters of cowboys and local “river people”, known as ribeirinhos. The students are taught by a professionally trained teacher using a curriculum recognized by the Ministry of Education of the state of Mato Grosso, where we’re located.
Our adult students include our own employees and those of neighboring ranches and tourist lodges, all of them dedicated to improving their lives. Children and adults alike are excited about the new world in front of them with easy access to education. For example, one jaguar tour guide—who is also a part-time cowboy, horse trainer and outboard motor mechanic—is now able to order replacement parts directly over the phone with the catalog in hand, improving the speed and quality of his work tremendously.
With students from the University of Michigan, we have also organized English courses for both children and adults, as well as offering first aid and other training with the help of local government and military groups.
The students at the Jofre Velho Pantanal School are receiving a comprehensive education, including learning about the importance of conservation in the Pantanal, and of the jaguar in particular. Thanks to Panthera Brazil and its supporters (the school is supported by grants and donations), students can get this education right at the ranch. Before, children would be separated from their parents sometimes for weeks and months because they had to move to neighboring cities to stay with relatives and attend school. Now, these families can learn together in places they’ve lived for generations and generations.
We hope this program will inspire residents to protect the Pantanal, the home they know and love—and its jaguars—long into the future.