Why I Care About Jaguars

Photo used with permission from Jacques Rossouw.
Photo used with permission from Jacques Rossouw.

I often wonder why I care about jaguars. They could go extinct tomorrow and my life would not change at all. So why am I concerned about them?

This question has plagued me since January, when I first read The Jaguar’s Shadow. In the chapter, “Pretty Well Hunted Out,” Mahler writes about a discussion he had with two jaguar scientists: Rebecca Foster and Ferdie Yau. At his prompting, Mahler and the researchers speculated about why they had all gone through so much trouble for jaguars (2009).

Ever since then, I have wondered the same thing. I have considerably altered my life for jaguars. I have abandoned a promising future as a mental health counselor in order to pursue a far more uncertain path (more about that in my first post). But why?

In The Jaguar’s Shadow, Foster and Yau both cite characteristics of jaguars as their motivations for studying them. They both credited its mysterious nature, as well as the fact that so little is known about them. But Mahler goes a step further. He claimed he was so fascinated by jaguars because he could relate to them (Mahler, 2009, p. 258). The same is true for me.

morgueFile free photo from Alexandre Henry Alves.
morgueFile free photo from Alexandre Henry Alves.

Part of the reason I care about jaguars is that I feel a connection with them. Like jaguars, I am comfortable being by myself. This is not to say I am socially incompetent, or that I shun interpersonal contact. But I am able to function quite well on my own, as are jaguars. However, simply being able to relate to jaguars does not justify rearranging my life for them. Instead, my passion is rooted in feelings I do not understand.

The base of my love for jaguars is not a “thing” that can be pointed to. Rather, it is an experience that can only be understood by living it. I do not care about jaguars because I want to, but because I have to. I feel compelled to learn, talk, and write about them. I am entering the realm of jaguar conservation because everything about it seems right, despite the practical concerns.

I do not blame you if you think what I have written is foolish, nonsensical, or crazy. In fact I would agree with you. I am not a spiritual person, preferring to value science over mysticism. Therefore I am taken aback by my passion for jaguars, which I can only understand as a sort of calling. Whatever the case, I will follow the road I have started until the end.

If anyone has thoughts on what I have said, please share. I will probably continue to think about this topic, and would appreciate your input.

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