Photo (cropped as allowed) by Flickkerphotos (Flickr)
Ummm..the dilemma of jaguar conservation. I am talking about the cat, incidentally! There are a lot of people who want to conserve and restore jaguar cars but a smaller number of people who are concerned with the much more difficult task of finding a sustainable way of protecting the magnificent jaguar, one of the big cats; the third largest cat after the tiger and lion.
One of those precious persons is Jim Sanderson Ph.D one of the foremost wildcat conservation experts. I'd just like to discuss, as a layperson with no particular expertise in this field of endeavor, his article in the Feline Conservation Fedeation's Nov/Dec magazine on jaguar conservation at page 14.
There is a complicated, commercial dilemma in trying to save the jaguar in Mexico, Central America and South America, where it lives. The jaguar shares its habitat with farmers; an almost impossible state of affairs you might imagine. It brings to mind the cheetah in Africa that suffers the consequences of a similar relationship with humankind.
Because the jaguar lives on farmland (or the farmer lives on jaguarland - that is more accurate by the way) there are commercial consequences when the odd jaguar preys on cattle. The farmer suffers financial loss. The farmer shoots the jaguar and there are not enough jaguars in the world to let this go by without concern. Not that the farmer is concerned. He has no thought whatsoever it seems to me about jaguar conservation - or does he; should he? Shouldn't the farmers become conservationists? After all they are the people who are nearest the "problem" and they share the land with the cat.
The trick it seems to me in clever cat conservation is to find a financial equilibrium that is sustainable and under which the population of the cat is also stable i.e. not declining. All wild cat populations are declining or we don't know what the population is or at best the population is stable. Just protecting the jaguar, guarding it, doesn't work. It is not financially viable and everything on this planet turns on that.
Jim Sanderson proposes some nice solutions. In one he suggests that the ranchers of Sonora, Mexico might raise cattle for the jaguar to eat rather than people to eat. That sounds odd but it makes sense and would be the consequence of allowing some jaguars to be shot as trophies, the money paid for barbaric pleasure going towards buying land that would be used for conservation purposes. The price paid by trophy hunters is high. Jim Sanderson quotes $300,000 for one jaguar. This proves how rare this animal is but it would buy 5,000 acres and $50,000 would go to the rancher. This would ease the pressure on the land that is being overgrazed turning grassland into thorn shrub. Controlled and managed trophy hunting would not only benefit the jaguar indirectly (strange that, isn't it?) but also the land generally.
It is seems odd to a layperson like me to see that killing the jaguar saves the jaguar. It shows how bizarre the world has become.
An alternative is to levy a tax on meat eaters, the proceeds of which would be used for conservation. If we were all vegetarians there would be no shooting of jaguars to prevent them preying on cattle. I think though that meat eaters would not agree to that and in any case if there were no cattle, the jaguar population would thrive and grow and then humankind would find some other reason to shoot the jaguar, which takes us full circle to the trophy hunting.
Let's kill 'em to save 'em. It's mad out there.
An after thought: the snow leopard is in part being protected from the same problems (farmers shooting them) by getting the farmers involved in improving the health of their cattle through vaccination. Healthier cattle means less die from disease. If less die from disease they are able to make up for the odd loss of cattle from predation by snow leopards. The solution is always a commercial one. Commerce is the only viable and sustainable motivator in jaguar conservation too. See Clever Cat Conservation.
See a bit more: Jaguar threats and conservation
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