There’s been an exciting study making the rounds that actually has positive findings.
The study, authored by Ceballos et al. (2021), was published in the journal PLoS ONE in October. It found that jaguar (Panthera onca) populations may actually be growing in Mexico.
I know it’s difficult to believe that something good could happen in 2021, but I read the study in question and it seems legit.
Ceballos et al. (2021) compiled vast amounts of data on jaguar occurrences in Mexico between the years of 1998 – 2018. They ended up with 15,632 records of jaguar occurrences throughout the nation, which became part of the information the researchers used to construct their jaguar population models.
The study authors also utilized data about jaguar population densities in different habitat types (i.e. how many jaguars typically live in a given amount of desert, jungle, scrubland, etc.), which they gleaned from camera trap surveys and other sources.
Using this knowledge, Ceballos et al. (2021) constructed a model that tracked changes in jaguar habitat, along with associated shifts in jaguar numbers.
Their results were astonishing.
Whereas jaguars had lost habitat – and likely numbers – in areas comprised of tropical forest and flooded vegetation, they’d gained habitat in more arid regions of Mexico.
This means that there was a 20% increase in Mexico’s estimated jaguar population between the years of 2010 – 2018.
Does this mean that jaguar populations in Mexico are secure?
First of all, my brain can’t process that level of optimism. Second, while the trend that Ceballos et al. (2021) have identified is encouraging, it’ll take continued effort to ensure that it continues.
Third, and finally, Ceballos et al. (2021) learned that jaguars had lost habitat in what’d been their stronghold in Mexico: the Yucatan Peninsula. This dynamic needs more attention; and, possibly, mitigation.
Nevertheless, Ceballos et al.’s (2021) findings are encouraging. They demonstrate that conservation can succeed when people work together, and when decisions are based on accurate information.
Ceballos, G., Zarza, H., González-Maya, J. F., de la Torre, J. A., Arias-Alzate, A., Alcerreca, C., … Torres-Romero, E. J. (2021). Beyond words: From jaguar population trends to conservation and public policy in Mexico. PLoS ONE, 16(10): e0255555. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255555
Yay!!! Such amazing creatures.
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So, do these findings mean that the jaguar has adapted to a different environment, et. al. dryer, warmer climates? That would be exciting news. Jaguars are a beautiful, and necessary predator that we cannot lose.
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They don’t necessarily mean that jaguars have adapted to drier climates, but that there have been increasingly effective conservation projects in Mexico’s more arid regions – particularly habitat restoration. The opposite is true in the Yucatan Peninsula: habitat has been lost, so jaguar numbers have likely declined there.
Jaguars are a necessary species, and a good argument for the value of preserving – or restoring – natural habitat.