On March 7, Mongabay’s Rhett A. Butler released a great feature about jaguars (Panthera onca) in Bolivia. More specifically, the article deals with a ranch that is serving as a bastion of conservation.
The ranch at the center of Butler’s article is called San Miguelito. Run by Duston Larsen and his partner Anai Holzmann, San Miguelito is showing other ranchers that it is possible to coexist with jaguars.
Larsen and Holzmann have invested in ecotourism – allowing guests to pay to visit their ranch and search for wildlife – which diversifies their income. As such, Larsen and Holzmann are better able to absorb the financial losses that occur when jaguars harm their cattle. San Miguelito also experiences far less jaguar predation than it once did.
Larsen and Holzmann have been working with Panthera, the global wildcat conservation organization, to better protect their cattle from jaguars. Taking steps like corralling calves and incorporating water buffalo and Criollo cattle into their herds – both of which are known to stand their ground against predators – has led to a sharp reduction in jaguar attacks; between 2013 and 2018, livestock losses declined by 92% on San Miguelito.
Of course, jaguars cannot survive without suitable habitat. To that end, Larsen and Holzmann are advocating for leaving wider strips of trees in soy fields than the government mandates. While these habitat paths are not as preferable as intact forests, they could serve as corridors that allow jaguars to move throughout human-dominated farmlands.
Forest patches are also good for soy beans, which benefit from the lower temperatures and higher humidities that the trees promote.
All together, San Miguelito is an example of how other ranches in Central and South America might operate. Rather than trying to ‘combat’ nature, Larsen and Holzmann have found ways to benefit both themselves and their local environment. In that regard, San Miguelito may serve as a glimpse into a better future.