Wild cat expert casts doubt on upbeat Mexico Jaguar census

Most are concentrated in the El Zapotal private ecological reserve, says environmentalist

A jaguar's image is captured in a trap camera set in the jungle. Photo: Internet
Juan Carlos Faller Menéndez. Photo: Twitter

A group of environmentalists are casting doubt on the claims of an upbeat 2018 census issued by a group of mainstream wildlife groups.

The 2018 National Jaguar Census (Cenjaguar) estimated about 4,800 adult specimens in Mexico, up 20 percent in eight years. Of those, about 1,800 were thought to be in Yucatan.

That study lacks professional methodology, said the advisory member of the Group of Experts in Conservation and Management of Wild Cats of Mexico, Juan Carlos Faller Menéndez.

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Faller Menéndez called the study a “lie” in a letter to Diario de Yucatan.

The census was the work of 25 groups of 16 institutions, among them, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Telmex Telcel Foundation and the Jaguar Alliance. The groups placed 396 trap cameras in 11 sites in 10 states, six of them in the south and southeast of the country.

The census hailed the increase in the jaguar population, which was credited in part to a conservation program launched in 2005 and overseen by the country’s national park service and headed by Gerardo Ceballos of the Ecology Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

But Faller Menéndez criticized the census’ use of statistical sampling.

For example, the ​​data attached to Chamela-Cuixmala, Jalisco were actually based on findings in the Los Petenes-Celestún-El Palmar region, in Campeche and Yucatán.

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And the data for the subhumid forests of the Peninsula was a hybrid of findings made in the wetlands of the Peninsula and the dry mountain of Chamela, he said.

Faller Menéndez also belongs to the San Jool team in the Mayan community of San Pedro Bacab in the east. They undertake several projects to finance conservation programs to support the jaguar and other big cats in Yucatan.

Mauricio Jiménez Charro, who is also part of the San Jool team, told country’s official news service Notimex that regardless of how many specimens remain, the important thing is to take actions for their conservation, since they are an indicator of the ecosystem’s health.

“If the population of jaguars is maintained, it means that the jungles and the rest of the species are also in good health to put it in some way. Yucatan has practically lost almost all of its high and medium forest; there are only a few corridors in the areas that border Quintana Roo and Yucatán,” Jiménez Charro said.

The jaguar is the third largest of all the big cats, after the lion and tiger. They are solitary creatures, coming together only for mating.

The Maya culture has traditionally revered the jaguar as a symbol of darkness, the underworld and the force that binds man to the foundation and energy of his life. This large cat was so esteemed as a sacred figure and “lord of the animals” that temples were built in the jaguar’s honor. The spots on a jaguar’s fur were seen as a representation of the constellations.

The jaguar population was in steep decline in the 1960s, when about 1,500 were killed yearly for their fur. By the early 2000s, only around 500 jaguars were left in Mexico. 

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