A new study shows that jaguars are able to coexist with humans despite the presence of cattle ranches and oil palm plantations.
The research has assessed the density of jaguars in two agricultural regions of Colombia for the first time.
Co-author of the paper and University of Kent PhD student Valeria Boron says, “For the first time in Colombia, we have the data to accurately detect jaguar population declines, estimate threats, and implement the appropriate conservation interventions before it is too late.”
Colombia is an important area for jaguars because it brings together different big cat populations in South America.
“The northern part of South America is the key connector between Central American jaguar populations and the Amazon and the rest of South America’s jaguars,” explains Panthera’s Colombia Jaguar Program Director Dr Esteban Payan.
Payan placed camera-traps across a 150km2 range in the savannas of the Ilanos and the Magdalena rainforests to capture footage of the species.
These areas are non-protected zones so they can play an important role as corridors between protected areas.
The region of Llanos is composed of arid savannas and has been home to cattle ranches for the past 500 years.
The presence of livestock can cause jaguars to come into conflict with ranchers.
However, the study has highlighted the importance of engaging with local communities to improve relations.
Payan and his team have been working with ranchers for the last eight years.
“We found really good solutions on cow management,” he says, “Once you get the ranchers on your side they are great allies for the conservation of jaguars.”
Researchers found that there are benefits to planting palm oil crops instead of rice or soy because palm oil plants can provide some cover for medium carnivores that jaguars prey on.
“If you manage landscapes well, you can keep some of the biodiversity. By creating a mix of habitats you can encourage corridors to appear between protected areas, which will allow jaguars to cross from one to another. This is essential to the survival of the species,” says Payan.
Main image: Cattle ranch in in the Municipality of Puerto Wilches, Santander, Colombia. © Valeria Boron