On March 1, while big cat supporters were preparing for World Wildlife Day, delegates from 14 Latin American countries met at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The objective of this Jaguar 2030 High-Level Forum was to strengthen jaguar (Panthera onca) conservation.
As the declaration from the Forum states, jaguars have lost 50% of their historic range. They are threatened by: habitat loss and fragmentation; livestock-related conflicts; persecution motivated by social identity and tradition; the decline of natural prey, and more.
A recent and potentially serious threat to jaguars is the Traditional Chinese Medicine trade. As Chinese companies expand their influence in Latin America, and as more Chinese citizens settle in jaguar range countries, jaguar poaching has skyrocketed in some areas. Several Chinese nationals have been caught attempting to ship jaguar teeth to China.
The Forum’s delegates realized that jaguars play vital roles in Latin America. Not only is their presence necessary for the maintenance of healthy ecosystems (due to their positions as apex predators and umbrella species), but jaguars have been cornerstones of human cultures in Central and South America for centuries. Their loss would therefore be catastrophic on multiple accounts.
Fortunately, all of the representatives who attended the Jaguar 2030 Forum resolved to help conserve jaguars. This will include reducing deforestation, maintaining habitat connectivity throughout the jaguar’s range, combatting the illegal wildlife trade, and working with local people to make it easier to coexist with jaguars.
Concerning this last strategy, both the final declaration and the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) statement about the meeting stressed that jaguar conservation and community wellbeing are not mutually exclusive. Investing in “nature-based solutions” can benefit both local people and the cats. Indeed, the UNDP’s press release included the following lines:
The Statement recognizes that investing in the conservation of jaguars and their habitats can improve broader efforts to manage natural resources, strengthen community livelihoods, and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
The big cat conservation NGO Panthera celebrated this new agreement, calling it “historic.” They emphasized that there is still hope to secure the jaguar’s long-term survival, as they are an adaptable species. But it will take effort and international collaboration to counter the growing threats to this extraordinary cat.
The Jaguar 2030 New York Statement is a step in the right direction.
Sources and Further Reading:
Jaguar Declaration Final – Jaguar 2030 New York Statement