Understanding how jaguar populations survive in human-dominated landscapes and thrive in protected forests is key in our scientific agenda. In order to do this multiple camera trap surveys and monitoring schemes are deployed country-wide.
Our projects range from understanding jaguar densities in different ecosystems, like the llanos or the inter-Andean valleys that are composed of different prey assemblages and habitat structures, to proving jaguar passage at high elevations between jaguar conservation units, to ensuring the protection and governance of key jaguar strongholds. The latter includes working shoulder-to-shoulder with government agencies, national parks and private entities at policy level and on the ground. This data ensures we are able to design tailored actions to curtail main threats to jaguars, pumas and their associated biodiversity. Our focus on implementation has been applied to zoning and development planning for oil related processes, mining complexes, best agricultural practices, mitigation infrastructural impacts and human wildlife conflict resolution.
Ground Truthing and Zoning
The Jaguar Corridor is based on map layers and real time jaguar presence as verified by our field researchers prowling the savannahs, swamps and jungle for jaguar sign. Eight years of these records have pinpointed the actual jaguar populations in Colombia and enable us to hone in our conservation strategies on the ground ensuring jaguar persistence there.
We have named the two key subcorridors within the country clumped and named as the Northern Corridor and the Eastern Corridor. The former connects the Darien – Chocó through the San Lucas Massif to the Llanos, and the latter the llanos from the Andes to the Orinoco.
The backbone of the Jaguar Corridor are the protected areas and we are working shoulder-to-shoulder with the National Parks Unit to create the most important park that connects the jaguar corridor: The San Lucas massif. If declared San Lucas, the continuous connectivity of jaguar populations from Central and South America to be possible, it is their only remaining connecting thread in the continent. The urgency for the creation of the protected area and its associated surrounding mixed-use landscape cannot be overstated as it will define in great deal the long-term survival of this magnificent cat.
Our work in San Lucas has continued focusing on outreach on the benefit of a protected area for the local communities meetings include the development of a clear understanding of what a potential protected area entails and clear ground rules on new restrictions in the area. The proposal has the support of many local community associations. In parallel we are supporting other protected areas that also are important for the functionality of the corridor in future.
Territorial planning with local governments
A new visionary project in Vichada (eastern llanos) was started to be planned and includes a holistic approach to three key elements of jaguar conservation:
1. Conflict management and model ranch creation
2. Corridor implementation and zoning at a municipal level, and
3. Jaguar, puma and prey camera trapping surveys.
The project is located in the municipalities of Santa Rosalia, Orocué and La Primavera which belong to the Meta River basin in the Colombian Eastern Llanos where the riparian forest constitute primer jaguar habitat and the main corridors dissecting the extensive cattle savannas.
Human-Wildcat Conflict Management
Greco and Model Ranches
Following extensive agriculture, persecution and retaliatory hunting on jaguars due to attacks on cattle constitutes the second most important threat to this wildcats’ survival. We address this issue extensively through the training of local authorities on conflict through our GRECO program (acronym in Spanish from Grupo Atención al Conflicto con Felinos) and solutions in selected model ranches to teach by example. The GRECO is now in place covering 420,875 km2 (36.8% of Colombia), encompassing 636 municipalities. A Conflict Management Recommendations Booklet and a GRECO Manual [links to download them here] with key points on important co-existence measures between cattle and felids was distributed during the activities.
Model ranches are chosen from a portfolio of ranches exhibiting depredation from jaguars. Here, we implied different husbandry and domestic animal management practices that limit depredation. Model ranch owners receive materials for the strategy to implement in correspondence to signing a conservation agreement where they commit to zero hunting. We then monitor the effectiveness of the ranch and adjust the strategy in accordance.
To date we have 25 model ranches in place and 5 being implemented this year. After the first week of implementation we have had zero attacks, even though we have registered multiple visits from jaguars and pumas by our camera traps.
Conflict with Infrastructure
The increase in human population density brings new infrastructure that threatens wildlife populations. In order to diminish this conflict, Panthera Colombia is doing applied research and recommendations to the government to decrease the impact of the burgeoning road and infrastructure development in Colombia.