A s we celebrate World Wildlife Day this year, the importance of emphasizing transboundary and collaborative conservation efforts is fresh in our minds.
Just 10 days ago at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS CoP13) in Gandhinagar, India, the jaguar (Panthera onca) — the wildlife icon of Latin America — was recognized as a migratory species and was added to the CMS Appendices I and II, affording the species some much needed conservation legislation and attention.
Indeed, 11 jaguar nations were signatories at the event: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
As the Amazonian nations begin to adopt the Jaguar 2030 Roadmap, the importance of including Indigenous People in decision-making processes will be crucial.
This global recognition for the jaguar came on the back of a recent collaborative publication by the UNDP, Panthera, WCS and WWF towards a conservation pathway for the species over the next 10 years: Jaguar 2030 Roadmap: Regional Plan to Save America’s Largest Cat and its Ecosystems.
Having lost almost 50 percent of its original habitat, this publication updated previous expert driven analyses to identify the regional strongholds for jaguars across their range as the major focus for conservation efforts over the next decade. As apex predators, jaguars are naturally scarce and therefore require large areas of suitable habitat.
At the CoP13, jaguar experts emphasized that using IUCN criteria, 33 of the 34 subpopulations of jaguars are Endangered or Critically Endangered, and from a Conservation of Migratory Species perspective, 26 of those 34 subpopulations are transboundary. Individual jaguars, particularly males, have huge ranges and a significant portion of the world’s remaining jaguar population regularly crosses country borders.
Furthermore, within each identified stronghold or conservation landscape, individual jaguars must frequently cross various land ownership and land management boundaries that include national parks, sub-national and private reserves, indigenous territories, forestry concessions, cattle ranches, agricultural areas, and others. Each land management area is likely to view jaguars differently and jaguars cannot survive if safe, unsafe, safe, unsafe depending where they happen to be on any given day.
The importance of conservation coordination across these mosaics of actors is especially evident in the vast Amazon basin, which includes several of the largest and most intact jaguar strongholds and where often immediately adjacent or overlapping protected areas and indigenous territories collectively cover almost 50 percent of the watershed.
As the Amazonian nations begin to adopt the Jaguar 2030 Roadmap, the importance of including Indigenous People in decision-making processes will be crucial. Conservation at a landscape or jaguar stronghold scale does not only protect jaguar populations. It also protects the vast majority of the Amazon’s record-breaking biodiversity, its critical global ecosystem services (especially carbon storage and sequestration), and preserves traditional indigenous cultures and lands.
In Bolivia, landscape conservation efforts around Madidi National Park have encouraged coordinated conservation planning and implementation between protected areas and the Lecos, Tacana, and T’simane-Mosetene Indigenous People. This has resulted in reduced deforestation rates in protected areas and Indigenous territories, certified sustainable use of natural resources, protection of key forests and wetlands, and the recovery of jaguar and wildlife populations over the last two decades.
On World Wildlife Day, we celebrate the collaborative attitude toward jaguar conservation and recognize the diversity of local actors needed to make on-the-ground action effective.
As jaguars face the emerging threat of illegal wildlife trade linked to Asian demand for body parts, especially fangs, the T’simane-Mosetene and the Tacana have once again demonstrated Indigenous Peoples’ commitment to biodiversity and wildlife conservation with public declarations regarding their focus on combatting illegal wildlife trade. This local priority will complement the national government efforts to prosecute the criminal networks promoting this trade.
Recognizing the importance of identifying and committing long-term conservation efforts to recognized transboundary strongholds for the jaguar is the core of the Jaguar 2030 Roadmap and is also key to several other jaguar conservation policy initiatives in the region. For example, we are both working to complete the forthcoming National Action Plan for Jaguars in Bolivia.
Today, on World Wildlife Day, we celebrate the collaborative attitude of governmental and non-governmental actors toward jaguar conservation, and recognize the diversity of local actors who are needed to make on-the-ground action truly effective. We encourage other nations to commit to the 2030 vision, become signatories for the recent Conservation of Migratory Species decision, and to balance conservation and development for a sustainable future.
Rob Wallace is a senior conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) who has worked on landscape conservation for jaguars, wildlife and local people in Bolivia and the Amazon for the last three decades.
Enzo Aliaga-Rossel is Director of the General Directorate for Biodiversity and Protected Areas at the Bolivian Ministry of the Environment and Water. His research first quantified the scale of the emerging illegal trade in jaguar parts in Bolivia.