El Tigre: Jaguar Conservation


It seemed natural to follow tigers with another jungle cat. This week we are heading over to the Americas as our topic is jaguars, Panthera onca.

When I was a little kid I would say the jaguar was my favorite animal. Looking back, this was probably the beginning of my fascination with large cats. While I have shifted my focus to African cats the jaguar still holds a special place in my heart. However, these gorgeous cats find themselves in trouble.Listed as near threatened by the IUCN these cats have been in a decline thanks to habitat loss and persecution from humans.

Much of the jaguars historic range has been reduced. Theses large cats once roamed from the southern U.S. to central Argentina. But for generations they have been pushed out of their home range by ranchers as they bring in livestock. Development and destruction of rain forests has also played a key role in jaguar declines. Due to all of these factors jaguars have been reduced to roughly 45% of their historic range (Rabinowitz). But on top of habitat loss jaguars have also had to face direct human persecution like many other large predators.

Jaguars have been persecuted ever since the first settlers. Theodore Roosevelt once wrote about the ranchers of Brazil hiring professional jaguar hunters to protect their livestock, which he witnessed during his travels there. He himself participated in the hunts and took a couple of jaguars. At the time no one could have guessed the extent to which jaguars would be persecuted in the future. At the peak of their decline during the sixties and seventies it is estimated that nearly 18,000 jaguar were slaughtered for their beautiful fur (Big Cats). Leaving only 12,000-15,000 in the wild (Big Cats).

There is some hope on the horizon. Several reserves have been created throughout jaguar ranges and studies are being conducted to determine current population levels and distributions, as well as methods to best conserve jaguars. One such study in the Yucatan was support by Safari Club International Foundation, SCIF, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation who donated $225,000 (SCIF). Jaguar have even been spotted in the United States again as one  was recently been spotted in Arizona (LA Times).

A key to jaguar conservation which many may not consider is the involvement of hunters. As of the latest information I could find it is not legal to import jaguar skins to the United States. However, many hunters still travel to South America and pay to hunt jaguar. These are not normal hunts though as most jaguar hunts are conducted as green hunts. This means the animal is tranquilized so the hunter can take photos and measurements. Typically DNA samples are also taken for research. This brings value to the jaguars while furthering jaguar research. These DNA samples plus samples gathered from research projects have surprisingly shown little variation in genetics of jaguars. This means the populations are not as isolated as once was believed (Rabinowitz).

Jaguar are considered to be an umbrella species. This means that due to their specific habitat needs the conservation of jaguars leads to the conservation of many other species. With the recent evidence of the genetic integrity of jaguar, their expansion back into the U.S., and combined efforts from conservation groups there is a glimmer of hope. With all this effort to protect jaguars maybe some day I will be lucky enough to see these gorgeous cats in their native range.


Rabinowitz, Alan, K. Zeller. “A range-wide model of landscape connectivity and conservation for the jaguar, Panthera onca.” Biological Conservation. 143 (2010): 939-945.

SCIF. http://www.scif-conservation.proboards.com/index.cgi board=9&action=display&thread=29

LA TImes. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2011/11/jaguar-spotted-southern-arizona-macho-b.html)

Big Cats Online. http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/jaguar.htm

Tigers Migrate to China…in Pieces

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Keeping with this week’s theme of tigers, I wanted to share the blog from another writer. Like rhinos, one of the biggest threats to tigers is poaching for the Asian market. There is no medical basis for their belief that tiger parts possess special powers, any perceived benefits are nothing more than placebo.

REAWR | Big-Cat Conservation


Customs officers in Primorsky Province in Russia’s Far East have arrested a suspect found attempting to smuggle three Amur tiger paws across the border into China.

The arrest comes only a day after Primorsky police and the Federal Security Service discovered a large quantity of illegally obtained animal parts – including bear paws and pelts as well as two Amur tiger skins – in the province’s port city of Nakhodka. A businessman from the city and his accomplices have been arrested in relation to the incident.

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Another mid week news break, not exactly related to this weeks topic of tigers but still an important conservation topic.

REAWR | Big-Cat Conservation

The Times of India

The roar of Asiatic lions in Gujarat just got louder. The conservation efforts of the state are now reflected not just in the growing numbers of the big cats but also in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

IUCN has now shifted the big cats from critically endangered species category to endangered species.

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Long Live the King: The Fight to Save the True King of the Jungle

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No, I am not referring to the African lion,which is more of savanna species. I am referring to the largest of all the wild cats and the true king of the jungle, Panthera tigris. Throughout much of its range the tiger is a true jungle species preferring dense cover. The exception to this is the Amur tiger, Panthera tigris altaica, which roams through the forests of Russia (formerly known as the siberian tiger).

Currently, his majesty’s reign as king is being threatened. Tiger populations through out Asia have been decimated. A century ago there were an estimated 100,000 tigers. Now experts say there may only be about 3,200 tigers left in the wild (Dybas). Tiger populations have been in decline for several reasons. Most prominent among these are habitat loss and poaching.

Tiger habitat has been severely reduced by logging and development. Tigers have been reduced to a mere 7% of their historic range (Walston). Much of this range has been reduced by unsustainable logging practices and over harvests. There is also a current initiative to develop floating hotels and casinos in the sunderbans, one of the remaining tiger strongholds. It is absolutely vital to protect what habitat still remains for tigers.

Poaching has likely had an even larger impact on tigers than habitat loss. Like rhinos tigers are used in traditional asian medicines. As such they are under constant pressure from poachers. In 2005 India was shocked to discover that poachers had eliminated all tigers from the Sariska Tiger Reserve, an area they had believed was a well-protected sanctuary (Dinerstein). If tiger declines continue at their current trend experts predict the complete extinction of tigers by 2022, ironically this is also the next year of the tiger on the Chinese calendar (Titova).

There is hope though. In November of 2010 Russia hosted a “tiger summit” to bring together the leaders of tiger range states. The goal of this summit was to develop a strategy for the recovery of tigers. 42 crucial source sites have also been identified (Walston). These are sites in which tigers are successfully breeding and could possibly be used to restore tigers to other areas.  If these areas are properly protected tigers can still be brought back from the brink of extinction



Dinerstein, Eric, et al. “The fate of wild tigers.” Bioscience. 57: 508-514

Dybas, Cheryl. “Last of the forest guardians.” Natural History. 119

Walston, Joe, et al. “Bringing the tiger back from the brink- the six percent solution.”                               PloS Biology. 8

“Strawberry” Leopard Discovered — A First

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Found this to be worth reposting.

REAWR | Big-Cat Conservation

Rare animal likely has genetic condition that changes fur pigment.

National Geographic (Christine Dell’Amore)

A leopard can’t change its spots, but apparently it can change its color.

African leopards normally have tawny coats with black spots. But a male leopard with a strawberry-colored coat has been spotted in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve, conservationists announced this week.

Tourists in the reserve had occasionally seen the unusual animal. But it wasn’t until recently that photographer and safari guide Deon De Villiers sent a photograph to experts at Panthera, a U.S.-based wild cat-conservation group, to ask them about the leopard’s odd coloration.

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Sentenced to Death: Ban on hunting could be the doom of three species


The “anti’s” are at it again and this time their misguided efforts may be the death sentence for three endangered species. Thanks to a group of anti-hunters three species  from northern Africa (scimitar-horned oryx, Oryx dammah, dama gazelle, Nanger dama, and addax, Addax nasomaculatus) have been added to the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits all hunting of these species (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7396832n).

Some of you reading this may think it makes sense to ban the hunting of these species, but there is more to the story. All three species have been labeled extinct in their native ranges. The only reason these species are still present is due to their value to ranchers in the United States. Starting in the 1970s ranchers have been raising these rare, exotic species for the purpose of hunting.Although these species are essentially treated as livestock, most hunting operations try to keep the animals wild to ensure the hunt is as fair and ethical as possible (http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7396832n). With individual price tags  ranging from $5,500- $10,000 based off what species is to be hunted, ranchers had plenty of incentive to raise these species instead of cattle. This may be a controversial topic but the conservation benefits cannot be ignored.

Back in the ’70s when ranchers first started to raise these species, the populations of oryx, addax and gazelle in the United States were estimated at 32, 2, and 9 respectively. Now Texas alone is home to 11,000 oryx, 5,000 addax, and 800 gazelle (http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/rule-bans-hunting-rare-exotic-antelopes-16065481#.T4Rt_2ChAb0). In only a 40 year period these species have seen a phenomenal increase in their total populations within the U.S. At the same time they have been exterminated from their native lands due to habitat loss, over hunting, war, and climate change.

But now that this ban has gone into place ranchers no longer have incentives to raise these beautiful creatures. Instead the last few months have seen ranchers selling their animals at extremely low prices, some discounted as much as 40-75%) to kill off their herds before they become worthless (http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local_news/article/Hunting-ban-could-see-last-of-unicorns-3453819.php).

The anti-hunters, led by a group named Friends of Animals, may have had good intentions. However, they let their emotions and personal beliefs about hunting overrule sound conservation practices. While it may not seem to be the best answer, I would rather see these animals alive and thriving on hunting ranches than to see them become completely extinct. This would be an absolute tragedy. If we are to ensure the future of this world’s amazing fauna we must be able to set aside our idealogical differences to focus on the real issues threatening wildlife

Scimitar-horned oryx


Dama gazelle

Trailing the Poacher’s Moon: The Fight to Protect Africa’s Rhinos


Lately the majority of my conservation efforts have been focused on the issue of rhino poaching as a good friend of mine had his rhinos poached in June of 2011, rhinos that I had personally seen and photographed. So it seemed only natural that my first real post about conservation is on rhinos. Over the last few years rhino poaching has seen a drastic increase due to its perceived value in traditional Asian medicines. In actuality the composition of rhino horn is similar to fingernails and has no true medicinal value.

This market has fueled a killing spree. In South Africa alone the year 2010 saw 333 rhinos poached, 2011 totaled another 448 (www.sanparks.org/about/news/default.php?id=1845) and as of this posting 2012 has already seen the deaths of 160 rhinos by the guns of poachers. As we exit this full moon (the poachers moon) period I expect to hear of another mass murder of the magnificent creatures. Another tragic statistic, though not from Africa, of this brutality was the complete eradication of the javan rhino from mainland asia. In October of 2011, after a year long survey, the javan rhino was declared extinct in Vietnam, which was its final foothold in mainland Asia (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2011/10/25/141688105/wwf-javan-rhinoceros-extinct-in-vietnam). As stated earlier these animals are killed simply for their horns. Some of the better funded poaching syndicates have taken to darting the rhinos and hacking the horns off of living animals, many of which die later from disease or trauma.


This slaughter has to stop. At current poaching rates rhinos in Africa will soon be faced with the threat of extinction just like their Asian cousins. We must take action and we must do it now. However, rhino supporters cannot agree on the proper course of action. Instead of banding together we have found ourselves divided along party lines preservationist vs. conservationist.  Generally speaking the preservationist party is made of animals rights activists and similar mentalities while the conservationist side consists of people in support of regulated use of rhinos. Preservationists believe the rhinos should be completely protected and no rhinos should be used for legal trade or hunting. Conservationists believe that legal trade and hunting is necessary to save the rhinos as it provides incentive for private land owners to breed and raise rhinos. As a hunter ( I have no intention of ever killing a rhino however) I tend to favor the conservationist side.

Regardless of which side we fall on the end goal should be ensuring the survival of Africa’s rhinos. If we cannot put aside our differences long enough to work together on that goal then our precious rhino are doomed. There are many ways to get involved and help with the effort. The most important is spreading the word, educating the public and rallying them to the cause is necessary to the success of this effort. There are also several good rhino conservation organizations which can always use volunteers or donations (do not donate without checking the legitimacy of an organization).

The rhino is a magnificent creature and a true symbol of Africa. I for one will not give up the fight to save this beautiful animal.

Introduction to wildlife conservation


What is wildlife conservation? Wildlife conservation is the regulation of wild animals and plants in such a way as to provide for their continuance. Efforts are aimed at preventing the depletion of present populations and ensuring the continued existence of the habitats targeted species need to survive. Techniques involve establishment of sanctuaries and controls on hunting, use of land, importation of exotic species, pollution, and use of pesticides. (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/wildlife+conservation) A simpler definition of wildlife conservation is the management of species  through sustainable practices to ensure future generations can enjoy it as well.

Conservation is not to be confused with preservation. Preservation is the idea that humans should leave wildlife alone, sanctuaries should be created and humans should have no contact with the animals. Conservation uses direct involvement from humans through habitat restorations, refuges, hunting and photo safaris.

Some hot topics right now in the field of conservation are:

United States

  1. Key deer- Species of deer native to the Florida Keys. These tiny deer have been severely reduced in numbers. The latest estimates place the current population between 250-750 http://floridaenvironment.com/programs/fe00306.htm
  2. Scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelle- These three species although native to western Africa are now found only on ranches in the U.S. primarily in Texas for the purpose of hunting. http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7396832n

Central and South America

  1. Jaguar- Jaguar are very reclusive cats so determining exact numbers has been difficult. All biologists know at this point in time is that the populations are declining. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7998.2011.00812.x/abstract Recently, Safari Club International Foundation (a conservation organization founded by hunters) completed a joint study with United for Conservation to better understand the jaguar population in Mexico. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=162442073830229&set=a.154414717966298.39190.154332054641231&type=1&theater


  1. Rhino- Rhino are under tremendous pressure in Africa from poaching. Over 400 rhinos from South Africa were killed in 2011 to supply horns for use in traditional medicine on the Asian black market. As of today’s date poachers have already killed 160 in South Africa alone. http://www.stoprhinopoaching.com/statistics.aspx (The stats provided at this link are as of March 19th, current total as of April 5th are 160 rhinos)
  2. Lion- Due to increasingly fragmented habitat and revenge killings for preying on cattle lions have become a hot topic amongst conservation organizations. Studies are being conducted all across Africa to create sustainable plans for lion management. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/273/1598/2119.full


  1. Tigers- Tigers face threats common to rhinos and lions. They are losing habitat at alarming rates and are poached due to their value in traditional chinese medicine. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_russia_saving_tigers/

These are just a sampling of the topics which will be covered on this blog. If there are any preferred topics or other suggestions feel free to leave comments.