What do you get when you combine competition for a massive sum of money, a biologist with a reputation for killing jaguars, and an agency culture that permits lying to the public? You get a dead jaguar. Add in a corrupt United States attorney and you also get what amounts to mild political persecution against the one person who told the truth.
For those who are unfamiliar with his story, Macho B was a well-known jaguar. He was the second tigre to be documented in Arizona during the windfall year of 1996. He provided hope that jaguars were returning to the U.S., and helped to generate new interest in his species.
But in 2009 Macho B was illegally captured by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). By then he was an old jaguar, and the AZGFD bungled the affair. He was also caught using a foot hold snare, which the lead trapper himself said was too dangerous to use on jaguars (Brun, 2015). As a result, Macho B was dead shortly after his ordeal.
Not only did AZGFD snare Macho B without the proper permits, but they openly lied to the public by claiming they caught him accidentally. This would have worked, if it were not for the author of Cloak and Jaguar: Janay Brun.
Janay was a researcher who was directly involved in Macho B’s life and capture. She was the only so-called conservationist who advocated for this important jaguar, providing evidence that his snaring was intentional. But instead of doing anything constructive, the U.S. government went after her.
Now Janay has written a book called Cloak and Jaguar: Following a Cat from Desert to Courtroom. You have to read this book. It exposes the questionable history (including lying about poaching) of the biologist most involved in Macho B’s death, the unscrupulous actions of several high-ranking AZGFD and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) employees, and how nothing has changed for the better.
A USFWS investigation recommended a host of people for prosecution, but charges were only brought against two of them. Many of the aforementioned individuals still work with jaguars. In fact some have increased responsibilities now (Brun, 2015).
One of the two people prosecuted for Macho B’s death was Janay Brun. The fervor with which the government went after her is astounding, considering what she did. She placed jaguar scat near the snare that caught Macho B at the behest of her supervisor, who assured her it was allowed.
Cloak and Jaguar gives a full account of these events. What is more, it is incredibly well-written. I had a hard time putting it down, even though the content left me feeling unsettled. But that which is important is not always comfortable.
You need to hear what Brun has to say. It is the only way you will know what really happened to Macho B. Cloak and Jaguar also makes it clear that the public has to be involved in jaguar recovery. The AZGFD and USFWS are not evil, but they are susceptible to the same pressures that all humans are. If we are vocal about our concerns for wildlife and what we expect from government agencies, we can instigate reform. We can also help prevent a similar fate from befalling El Jefe, the current U.S. jaguar.
Again, I can not recommend this book enough. Click on this link to be taken to Cloak and Jaguar’s Amazon page.
Brun, J. (2015). Cloak and jaguar: Following a cat from desert to courtroom. Silver City, NM: Relham LLC.