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.

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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How many jaguars are left in the world 2022?

There are two very sad facts to report in answering the question in the title. Firstly, there are websites and videos which greatly misrepresent the world population size of the jaguar. For example, there’s a video on YouTube which says that there are almost 200,000 Jaguars in 19 countries including America. The video is complete rubbish and it is dangerous because it gives the impression that there is a large jaguar population in the world and believe me there is not. I have reported it to the administrators. The jaguar population is tiny and fragmented.

Another website states that there are 15,000 jaguars in the world, in the wild. This, too, is inaccurate in my view because the world experts on the conservation of the species do not feel confident enough to provide a number at all. They say that the current population trend is decreasing but under the heading “NUMBER OF MATURE INDIVIDUALS” it is blank. There’s nothing.

How do Jaguars adapt to the rainforest?
How do jaguars adapt to the rainforest? Eons of evolution. Photo in public domain.

RELATED: How do jaguars adapt to the rainforest?

I’m referring to the IUCN Red List. This is an organisation charged with knowing all about the conservation of the species. They have to know the number of animals left in the world before they can assess whether a species is threatened with extinction or not. That is their primary duty. They provide a badge to each animal which classifies it in terms of threats to survival. They classify the jaguar as Near Threatened. This surprises me because they don’t know how many there are!

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) state on their website that: “They’re so elusive that we don’t know exactly how many are left in the wild – but we do know their numbers are dropping.”

They, too, do not have the confidence to even provide an estimate as to the number in the wild.

Most sites that I visited do not provide an estimate as to numbers. One site: Our Endangered World, states that the estimated numbers left in the wild are 8000 to 16,000 ‘though uncertain’. I think that is a big overestimate. They are guessing and they do not provide any supporting evidence or reference for those figures.

I am convinced that no matter how long I research this matter I will not find an authoritative and reliable figure for the number of jaguars left in the world, in the wild, as at 2022 because HUMANKIND DOES NOT KNOW.

jaguars in water
Jaguars like water and go fishing. Photo: Alan.

RELATED: Where do jaguars live (2022)?

The best book on the wild cat species, Wild Cats of the World (2002) by the Sunquists states that as at the date of publication of the book, optimistically, there were 2,500-3,500 jaguars in Venezuela. They thought that there were an estimated 3,500 jaguars in the Brazilian Pantanal but this was downgraded to around 1,000 by another expert. In Guatemala they thought that there were an estimated 500-800. The jaguar was and presumably still is considered to be extinct in Chile, El Salvador and Uruguay and approaching extinction in Argentina, Costa Rica and Panama. Those are the best figures we have but they are 20 years old. Please be very cynical about the figures that you see on the Internet because the experts do not know.

Below are some more articles about this beautiful big cat.

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How long do jaguars live?

We are told that, in the wild, jaguars live between 12-15 years. Although Mel and Fiona Sunquist in their excellent book Wild Cats of the World (2002) state that jaguar “longevity in the wild is unknown”. On my reading about the longevity of wild cats in the wild, 12-15 years is about the average although sometimes a bit shorter. In fact, they go on to state that Rabinowitz, in his research: Jaguar predation on domestic livestock in Belize (1986), estimated that “few jaguars in Belize lived to be more than eleven years old”.

Jaguar on the Prowl
Jaguar on the Prowl. Pic in public domain.

It is an entirely different story for those jaguars in captivity. Mel and Fiona Sunquist state that “In captivity, jaguars have lived to the advanced age of twenty to twenty-five years, and one female was thirty-two years old”.

What is the cause of death for the jaguar in the wild? One reason is the retaliatory killings by farmers to protect their livestock. Another is going to be that they are sometimes injured when capturing large prey animals which leads to their inability to survive.

Sometimes they are killed by poachers. There is a story reported by Mel and Fiona Sunquist in which they state that two subadult males dispersed the natal range at 16 and 18 months of age. One male spent eight months disbursing. He couldn’t settle meaning that he couldn’t find his own home range before being killed by poachers.

The struggle to survive must shorten lifespan. For example, the white-lipped peccary, an important jaguar prey animal has been extirpated (by human activity) from 21% of its historical range during the past century. The jaguar is losing its prey animals. It habitat has been decimated. They have lost about 49% of their historic geographic range according to the Red List report, dated 2016. They also state that the jaguar is vulnerable to persecution.

How do Jaguars adapt to the rainforest?
How do Jaguars adapt to the rainforest? Eons of evolution. Photo in public domain.

Where there is rapid human population increases with large-scale conversion of jaguar habitat to human use, there will be retaliatory killings of jaguars. This occurred in Uruguay from the mid-1800s and in El Salvador. In both countries the jaguar is extinct because of human persecution. The Red list states that there are “few areas within the jaguar range that can be considered safe [to the jaguar]”.

They also state that there is “still demand for jaguar paws, teeth and other products, especially in local markets where canines are still considered interesting jewellery. On top of this, jaguars are starting to be considered a replacement for tiger bone for traditional medicine purposes by the increasing Asian community in Latin America”. Chinese traditional medicine continues to be perhaps the single most damaging influence to the conservation of the big wild cats.

Below are some articles about the Jaguar which may interest you.

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How many Jaguars are in Costa Rica?

Google tells me that people want to know how many Jaguars (the cat!) there are in Costa Rica. It is actually a very difficult question because I don’t think anybody is courageous enough or silly enough to actually provide a firm number. The clever ones, the experts, can’t even provide a firm number or even a good guesstimate at the number of Jaguars on the planet. They only provide estimated population densities.

The place to go to for the answer is the IUCN Red List. It’s their job to assess whether a species is surviving or heading towards extinction. They rank the survivability of a species. In doing so they should or must have a handle on population size of that species. They certainly know the general trend which for the Jaguar is decreasing. That shouldn’t surprise anybody who knows even a little bit about the wild cat species.

Jaguar
Jaguar. Image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay

Short-tailed jaguar in Belize and Guatemala
Short-tailed jaguar in Belize and Guatemala. Photo: Marcella Kelly

What they do tell me is that the population density i.e. the number of Jaguars for every hundred square kilometres in an area called Mesoamerica which is roughly the same in Central America is between 0.74 to 11.2. For South America the Jaguar density in the Brazilian Pantanal has been estimated at 6.6-6.7 for every hundred square kilometres.

I’m going to take as a very rough figure that there are about five Jaguars for every hundred square kilometres in Costa Rica. It is a guess but it’s somewhere in between the figures I have just quoted. The landmass of Costa Rica is about 51,000 km².

So if there are five Jaguars every hundred square kilometres it means that there are 5 x 511 Jaguars in Costa Rica which is 2,555. That’s probably at the top end of an estimate. It is more likely to be 1/3 of that which is 852 although, I’d say under 1,000. I’m going to settle on about 1,000 Jaguars in Costa Rica.

I could be wildly out and rather ominously, the IUCN Red List authors say that the Talamaca Mountains of Costa Rica and Panama support a Jaguar population but the probability of long-term persistence is medium to low. That assessment was made in 2007 by some scientists in a study. Also they say that in other countries of Central America such as Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua there is great pressure on Jaguars from deforestation and hunting. That second observation was made in 2014 by another scientist.

I therefore have to conclude that the future of the Jaguar in Costa Rica is poor. With numbers declining and with a human negative impact forcing numbers ever lower, the future is relatively bleak.

There is an interesting report in The Times newspaper today based on a study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution which came to the conclusion that human encroachment onto the territories of wild animals of many species triggers in these animals a change in behaviour greater than had been thought. It forces them into hiding to avoid people. The presence of people has an immediate effect on animal behaviour. The leopard became a night hunter because of people.

The effect is greater than habitat loss. These animals flee humans and they have to travel further food and for mating. They may decrease their movements and on average movements declined by 37% when people encroached on their lifestyle. Just an example of how humans have a negative impact on the wild species which must include Jaguars in Costa Rica.

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World’s only short-tailed jaguar

NEWS AND VIEWS: You might have thought that I was discussing a genetically mutated jaguar in Belize and Guatemala which has a short tail very similar to that of the bobcat but I’m not. This beautiful jaguar had, at one time, a normal tail. He lost it somewhere along the way but the experts don’t know how or why.

Short-tailed jaguar in Belize and Guatemala
Short-tailed jaguar in Belize and Guatemala. Photo: Marcella Kelly

He’s been named, guess what, “Short-Tail”. He does have a genuine “first”, which is that he is the first jaguar to cross the boundary between Belize and Guatemala. They know this because he was photographed by camera traps in both countries. It is important news in one regard in that it proves the point that international cooperation on conservation is important. Jaguars are classified as Near Threatened by the Red List. It seems to me that nearly all the wild cat species are threatened in some way or another by human activity, some species more than others.

Back in 2009 he had his full tail and by 2011 it was missing. He was photographed in Guatemala in 2013 and then in Belize in 2014. He is the first “transboundary jaguar in the region”.

The late co-founder of the big cat conservation non-profit, Panthera, Alan Rabinowitz, said in 2014 that jaguars have been more resilient in terms of conservation than other big cats. If that’s true it may be because they live in areas where they are respected more or they are further away from China where they like to use big cat body parts in various ways including in traditional Chinese medicine. You’ve got to keep these cats away from the poachers because trading big cat body parts is big business. By the way, Belize has five wild cat species: the jaguar, puma, ocelot, jaguarundi and margay, which is very nice. It has a lot of good habitat for the wild cats. You can read about these wild cats by clicking on this link.

British Army

In a linked story, I note that on the British government’s website they announce that the British Army is protecting big cats in Belize. They’ve got a unit out there which has photographed jaguars, ocelots and mountain lions (pumas) in the heart of the Belize jungle. The British Army Training Support Unit Belize and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation have teamed up with the above-mentioned charity, Panthera, in the task of protecting endangered wildlife under a three-year programme. They’re doing it so that they don’t disturb the local habitats during military training operations.

Jaguar and puma in Belize photographed by British army
Jaguar and puma in Belize photographed by British army

They’ve captured some great images in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserves. This is a 430 km² area. It is described as being four times the size of Paris. They found that the presence of the army in the jungle deterred poachers and illegal logging of the forest. That’s a good thought. It’s something which would not have crossed my mind unless I had read about it.

British forces have a good relationship with the Belize Government Departments, landowners and NGOs. They work together well and as mentioned their presence helps to protect wildlife.

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Trump’s Mexico-US wall would jeopardise ocelot conservation

The news surrounding Trump’s great wall has subsided but its construction is still on the table and it is still a danger to wildlife conservation and in particular for the ocelot. This beautiful but endangered small wild cat species has been documented as living in Arizona since the 19th century but they were heavily persecuted for their coat, almost to the brink of extinction. There are now attempts to protect this wild cat species. It needs the ability to cross the border from Mexico to America.

The border wall
The existing border wall. Photo: Getty Images.

A conservation organisation named CATalyst have reported seeing ocelots breeding about 30 miles south of the border in Mexico. There is a camera trap video on the ecowatch.com website and on YouTube, which shows an adult male ocelot thriving in the mountains of Arizona, a US state which borders Sonora, Mexico. This male ocelot has been named by a group of elementary school students at Manzo Elementary School in Tucson Arizona as Lil’ Jefe.

The wall would restrict the ability of Sonoran ocelots to cross between the US and Mexico in search of food and to occupy its natural habitat. My research indicates that at the Sonoran-Arizona border there is largely a vehicle fence with some additional fencing currently in place. The vehicle fence, at least, allows the passage of ocelots through it. I also understand that Trump wants to construct approximately 509 miles of new border wall. Of this 57 miles of replacement barrier and 9 miles of new secondary barrier has been constructed over 66 miles. Currently, as I understand it as well, no new wall has yet been completed. This despite the fact that there has been emergency funding released in the sum of US$9.8 billion.

Ocelot in Sonora just south of Arizona
Ocelot in Sonora just south of Arizona. Screnshot from video which is a camera trap video.

The current thinking about the wall from the Trump administration is that although initially he wanted to build a wall along the entire border which is 2,000 miles long, his current thinking is that nature’s barrier such as mountains and rivers will present a sufficient barrier to stop illegal immigration at the border and the wall will cover the rest, about half the distance.

I don’t know to what extent the Trump administration has given consideration to wildlife conservation. I mention the ocelot, an endangered species. However, the wall, if constructive, would have a negative conservation impact on 93 threatened and endangered species in total. It would also affect the jaguar which is incredibly rare in this part of the world and there were plans to re-wild the Jaguar in a proposed jaguar reserve on the border between Arizona and Sonora.

My distinct impression is that President Trump does not have a great regard for wildlife conservation in America and in general. There are numerous facts to support this. His sons are trophy hunters for instance. Wildlife conservation gets in the way of business and business expansion and we know that Trump depends upon proving that he can expand the economy in order to demonstrate to the world that he is a successful American president. I don’t know how much of a battle is going on in the federal government regarding conservation issues in respect of this wall. I just know that Americans owe the ocelot the chance to survive in their country bearing in mind the catastrophic persecution of this small wild cat species to make coats from its beautiful skin during the early part of the 20th century. U.S. Customs figures from the 1960s show that the ocelot dominated the US fur market reaching a high of about 140, 000 skins in 1970. It takes an average of 12.9 start skins to make a fur coat.

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Jaguar cub born through artificial insemination is eaten by her mother

This is awful. It’s been reported that the world’s first jaguar cub born through artificial insemination has been eaten by her mother two days after birth although there is some confusion over the cub’s death.

Jaguar cub with mother
Jaguar cub with mother

The jaguar cub was born in San Paulo, Brazil in February 2019. We are told (Daily Mail) that her mother, Bianca ate her own kitten at a veterinary facility and despite this incredibly sad incident the scientists behind this work are happy with the results of their work. They feel it was successful and will benefit conservation going forward. Unfortunately these programs fight a rearguard action. They are playing catch up; far better to prevent the loss of wild cat species in the first place.

Scientists hailed their work as a landmark scientific breakthrough. And then disaster. The scientists say that their work increases the conservation prospects of wild cats.

The female kitten was born healthy and vigorous and initially Bianca showed excellent maternal care for her newborn. The cub died after two days.

Samuel Nunes a spokesperson said: ‘Unfortunately after two days the cub died. We don’t know why and cannot say if it was killed by the mother because it was not seen on the monitors on the second day…’

This somewhat contradicts the title and the reports I have read.

The scientist could not conduct a necropsy (autopsy) because the baby had been consumed by her mother.

The project is called the Mata Ciliar project. It’s been going on since 2017. It was developed in partnership with scientists at the Centre for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) based at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens in the United States.

Bianca was one of five females chosen to participate in the project because she was in good health and suitable for reproduction.

The birth was captured on CCTV showing the doting mother caring for her newborn who snuggles up to her to feed.

Comment: the story rather peculiar because of the contradictory information and the lack of a visual record of the death. I find this difficult to understand. Did the cub die for some other reason? A reason connected with the work of the scientists. And if not why did Bianca eat her cub? There is nothing in my reference books which help me to explain it. The scientists who did the insemination don’t know either.

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Jaguar’s forest habitat burnt up in barbecue briquettes

Supagrill barbeque briquettes
Supagrill barbeque briquettes

This is another depressing story about the destruction of the world’s ancient forests. I recently wrote about old Swedish forest being used to make toilet paper and today I’m going to address the destruction of tropical forest inhabited by Jaguars in Paraguay to make briquettes for barbecues in the West. So when you’re grilling your sausages and steaks on your patios, verandas and balconies have a thought for the jaguar, one of the world’s most magnificent animals whose habitat is being burnt away to help entertain people in Europe.

In the UK, Supagrill charcoal briquettes have been on sale and still are at a DIY store called Wickes. The briquettes are supplied by Bricapar. The company has a large charcoal operation in the Chaco forest in Paraguay. Their production line is fuelled by slow-growing hardwood trees which are cleared from ancient forests. It is an area which is home to many of Paraguay’s 110,000 indigenous people. It is an area which contains high levels of biodiversity including 3400 plant species, 500 birds, 220 reptiles and amphibians and 150 mammals including, as mentioned, the wonderful jaguar.

The Chaco forest is being stripped of trees faster than any other tropical forest. The land is converted to agriculture. The Chaco production is for European retailers. The business consumes the equivalent of 30 football pitches of the forest every day. The site produces 7000 tonnes of charcoal annually and there are plans to expand.

As the packaging does not contain information about the origin of the product, purchasers do not know the source. A distributor (CPL Distribution) raised the issue with Bricapar, who strongly denied the allegation. After initial resistance Wickes have decided to pull the product from their online website and it is being removed from stores as a precaution. They are investigating.

Bricapar say that they comply with all permits and environmental licences issued by the Paraguayan authorities. Yes, the Paraguayan authorities are obviously unconcerned about wild life conservation. Business is more important as usual (or the backhanders). Sam Lawson of Earthsight who exposed the trade said:

“What is happening in Paraguay is the most rapid case of deforestation in human history. It is absolutely outrageous that the major UK retail chain should have a hand in this.”

I hope people take note of this information and stop buying these briquettes. I don’t think they will. I don’t think people actually care enough about the habitat of the jaguar or any other species of animal making their home in the forest. There is no sign of deforestation stopping and remember this is ancient forest. We’ll never see it again and one day the only way we will see the jaguar is behind bars, pacing and pacing never to be free again.

Forest habitat for lynx is flushed down the toilet

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