The loss of the jaguars is due to the raging wildfires and rapid deforestation.
Around 1,500 jaguars were found dead or displaced in the Brazilian Amazon. This was observed over the last couple of years and was gradually increasing due to wildfires and deforestation.
A new study found that 1,470 jaguars had lost their homes or had died from August 2016- December 2019. The researchers had analyzed earlier assessed jaguar population estimates alongside deforestation data. These data were all sourced from satellite images of 10 states in the Amazon.
Tortato Talks About The Impact Of Wildfires
“The results obtained represent a new way to numerically quantify the effects of deforestation and forest fires that are alarmingly advancing in tropical forests,” co-author Fernando Tortato, conservation scientist for Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization. “The same approach can be used for other threatened species and change the way we interpret the loss of natural habitats.”
The raging wildfires had a negative impact on the population of these cats. The study included the “Day of Fire” in 2019. This was when ranchers, loggers, and local farmers had coordinated waves of organized burnings. The fires had tripled within 24 hours as they were 124 recorded blazes on August 10, 2019. Only 6 were recorded on the same date, a year ago in 2018.
Jaguars Are Classified As Threatened Species
Jaguars are considered to be near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with population numbers decreasing.
The species’ range had been cut in half because of the rapid growth of farming and deforestation. Other threats were also observed which included human-wildlife conflicts and hunting.
The loss of 1,470 jaguars in the time window accounted for approximately 2% of the region’s jaguar population. The loss includes 488 animals in 2016, 360 in 2017, 268 in 2018, and 354 jaguars that were killed or displaced from their homes in 2019.
Researchers said that 300 jaguars are thought to lose their lives annually in the Brazilian Amazon strictly due to habitat loss and fires. That does not take into consideration conflicts with humans when the big cats prey on livestock.
These studies were published in the Conservation Science and Practice journal and was conducted by Panthera, Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, and the research and conservation center, Centro Nacional de Pesquisa e Conservação de Mamíferos Carnívoros-Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (CENAP-ICMBio).
Jaguars Are Unable To Rebound
Jaguars are considered to be quite resilient as they are quite mobile and can relocate better than other species. But it is difficult to rebound from the loss of this much of their range.
“Habitat loss represents the main threat to jaguars. It is a species that has already lost 40% of its original range and needs vast wild areas to support population viability. Deforestation immediately represents a loss of habitat and a reduction in the availability of natural prey for jaguars,” Tortato explains.
Jaguars become vulnerable to poaching if they choose to stay near deforested areas. Cattle ranching occurs in such deforested areas. This increased the risk as jaguars can attack the livestock which will eventually end up in a retaliatory hunt.
Additionally, when wild habitats like these are lost, it never tends to come back. The habitats are used to support livestock production or farming, which then puts these big cats directly in conflict with the humans.
“Quantifying numerically how many jaguars are displaced by deforestation allows us, for example, to identify spatial bottlenecks where populations may be at risk of becoming isolated. The number of jaguars displaced per se represents a strong statistic to move the needle in improving public policies that can reduce illegal deforestation in the Amazon,” Tortato says.
Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project is working to create one of the largest jaguar corridors in the world and is trying to mitigate human-jaguar conflict through a strong ecotourism industry and conservation education outreach.
“The jaguar and all biodiversity in the Amazon can be helped in various ways. Government actions that reduce illegal deforestation and stimulate sustainable economic activities are essential,” Tortato says.