Proposed Nicaraguan Canal Threatens Jaguars

Jaguar by Cloudtail. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Jaguar by Cloudtail. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

At the end of the year, construction is set to begin on the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal. This canal, which will be built by the Hong Kong-based Nicaraguan Canal Development Company (HKND), would be even larger than the Panama Canal. In addition, it would put extra strain on Nicaragua’s already threatened jaguars.

As a result of illegal cattle ranching, forests on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast are rapidly disappearing. The proposed canal would add further pressure to this region, degrading critical jaguar habitat and displacing indigenous people. It might also sever genetic corridors for jaguars, Baird’s tapirs, and white-lipped peccaries.

The above corridors are crucial for the long-term survival of all three species. Interrupting their travel routes may isolate populations on either side of the canal, decreasing their genetic diversity. This, in turn, could make them more vulnerable to local extinctions.

The good news is that Nicaragua is one of the eight members of Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative. This is an ambitious program that seeks to allow jaguars to move through human landscapes while simultaneously promoting sustainable development.

Jaguars are able to cross the enormously busy Panam Canal, possibly aided by the presence of Barro Colorado Island. If proper steps are taken, they may also find a way across the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal.
Jaguars are able to cross the enormously busy Panama Canal. If proper steps are taken, they may also find a way across the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal. Panama Canal Gatun Locks by Stan Shebs. CC BY-SA 3.0

As such, there is hope that the Nicaraguan government will work with conservationists to mitigate the canal’s impact on jaguar movements. There is evidence that jaguars are able to swim across the busy Panama Canal (Mahler 2009), possibly aided by an island that serves as a stepping-stone (Rabinowitz 2014). I suspect that if included, similar stepping-stones could help them cross the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal.

Panthera’s original press release contains far more information about the proposed canal’s impacts on jaguars. It is also linked to useful background information.

 

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Proposed Nicaraguan Canal Threatens Jaguars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s