In Mexico, jaguars and pumas are eating more monkeys thanks to human activities

Abnormally, jaguars and pumas in Middle and South America (Neotropics) are attacking and eating primates (monkeys and apes) rather than ungulates (hooved animals) because of human activities resulting in prey depletion and deforestation. As usual, these human activities have a negative impact on these top predators which threatens their survival.

Jaguar
Jaguar. Photo: MikeB based on an image in the public domain.
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It’s unusual for both jaguars and pumas (mountain lions) to so commonly attack primates as they are not the usual prey animal of these predators.

A study concluded that “primates represented the most frequent prey (35%) for both jaguar and puma in our study site and constituted approximately half of the biomass consumed by these felines in the area”.

Puma aka mountain lion
Puma. Photo by Lee Elvin on Wikipedia.

The scientists used a wild cat detection dog to find the poop deposited by both jaguars and pumas, which they examined to decide the animal species remains contained within.

And, tellingly, they found that the remains of primates were found in the poop samples when the samples were collected from areas where there was the lowest amount of conserved forest and in areas surrounded by more villages. This reinforced the belief that the alteration in hunting habits of these two top predators have been affected by human activities.

They concluded that the high percentage of primates being attacked and eaten by these cats “could be an early indication that populations of ungulates and other typical prey are beginning to collapse [in the neo-tropics] and urgent conservation interventions are needed for both large cats and primates before they become locally extinct.”

Wild ungulates are being killed by people resulting in a depletion of their numbers in this area. Large prey animals are very important to top predators for their survival. “The most sought-after bushmeat prey are red brocket deer (Mazama temama), collared and white-lipped peccary (Pecari tajacu and Tayassu pecari), lowland paca (Cuniculus paca), and armadillos (Dasypus novemcintus)”.

In essence, humans compete with jaguars and pumas for these prey species which when combined with deforestation by people for commercial purposes seriously harms the survival prospects of these cats.

Our results highlight the importance of maintaining tall forest cover and ecosystem biodiversity and for management strategies that mitigate overhunting the primary prey of large cats to avoid disruption of prey predator interactions, before the negative effects on both primate and large cat populations become irreversible.

Study scientists – Aralisa Shedden-González, Brenda Solórzano-García, Jennifer Mae White, Phillipa K. Gillingham, Amanda H. Korstjens. Study: Drivers of jaguar (Panthera onca) and puma (Puma concolor) predation on endangered primates within a transformed landscape in southern Mexico. Link: https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.13253

RELATED: The way jaguars hunt

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