Thursday, 7 September 2006

Endangered Jaguars

The IUCN Red List continues to list the Jaguar as simply "Near Threatened". Not Vulnerable, not Endangered, simply "Near Threatened". To my mind this makes a mockery of the whole classification of degrees of threat. The species is completely extinct in many countries within its range, and even in those countries where it still exists, it is almost always listed as Endangered or Vulnerable. While there is little statistical data, there is ample anecdotal information, almost all of which points to ongoing declines. So why are conservationists so "conservative"?

Back in the early 1980s I suggested that the African Lion ought to be considered for inclusion in the Red Lists, but was laughed at. In 2004, it was included as Vulnerable. All big cats are incompatible with human populations, which are expanding everywhere. So how can the Jaguar, considered Vulnerable and continuing to decline throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s now be considered only Low Risk/Near Threatened?

To quote the IUCN Red List itself: "Its stronghold is in the rainforest of the Amazon Basin , but it is declining in most other habitats. The Jaguar has been virtually eliminated from much of the drier northern parts of its range, as well as the pampas scrub grasslands of Argentina and throughout Uruguay. The most urgent conservation problem for the Jaguar throughout much of its range is the current intolerance of ranchers. The vulnerability of the Jaguar to persecution is demonstrated by its disappearance in the mid-1900s from the southwestern US and northern Mexico".

If its stronghold, the Amazon basin was not disappearing at an alarming rate there might be some justification for IUCN's assessment, but it and the Jaguar are disappearing. By not highlighting the threatened nature of Jaguars, we are fiddling while the Amazon burns.

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