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Sad News: 26 Jaguars Killed in Panama This Year

Oct 05, 2016 05:54 AM EDT
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Scientists and conservationists are alarmed with the increasing number of jaguar killings in Panama, with 26 jaguars killed from January to September this year.

Their findings, published in the Journal for Nature Conservation and presented at the 20th Congress of the Mesoamerican Society for Biology and Conservation, showed that jaguars in Panama were being killed by a wide range of people, from tour guides to livestock owners. Oftentimes, the killings were done in retaliation for the jaguars' predation on their cattle, sheep, and dogs.

"We have evidence that cattle ranchers killed a minimum of 230 jaguars in Panama between 1989 and 2014," said Ricardo Moreno, research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama and one of the authors of the study, in a statement. "We have reason to think that the actual number may be two- or three- times higher. In 2015, 23 jaguars were killed. In 2016, through September, 26 jaguars were killed."

Moreno, who is also the director of Yaguará Panamá Foundation, speculates that the expanding agricultural and urban areas in the region and new developmental projects such as dams and mines are forcing jaguar populations to settle in steep mountainous areas. Additionally, the increasing human consumption of white-lipped peccary, which is one of the primary diets of jaguars, are forcing the big cat to prey on domesticated animals.

For the study, the researchers collected camera-trap survey data from 15 national parks and forest fragments on both sides of the Panama Canal in 2005 to 2014. Using two sites in the intact Darién National Park in Eastern Panama as reference, the researchers compared the mammal species richness and evenness and structurally-complex mammal communities.

The researchers discovered that the population white-lipped peccaries, jaguars and tapirs have disappeared in important areas of the Panamanian section of the border. Furthermore, several National Parks in the region are not supporting the expected number of animals, despite the fact that more than 22 percent of Panama's land area is under some sort of protection.

With their findings, the researchers have written action plans to conserve jaguars, peccaries and the forests in Panama, including education, extension programs, economic incentives and creation of multi-institutional alliances.

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