Panthera’s Camera Traps Capture First Photographs Of Jaguars On Colombian Oil Plantations

The first ever photographs of jaguars within an oil plantation in Colombia have just been released. Among the individuals photographed was a mother with her two cubs. A video containing footage of a male jaguar was also included.
Panthera, the world´s leading wild cat conservation organization, focuses solely on the study and conservation of wild cats. The camera traps placed by Panthera in the Magdalena River valley were meant to gather information about the dangers of Colombia´s growing oil plantations on the jaguar populations. Panthera´s objective is to understand how the plantations affect the jaguar´s ability to move throughout its habitat, reproduce, and the effects on species that the jaguars prey on.
Oil plantations are common to Latin America and Asia. Created by deforestation of detrimental habitat to many large cat species, they prove to be an increasing threat. In Asia, tigers are severely affected by the creation of these plantations, and will not cross through areas that have been overtaken by humans; this hinders their movement and even restricts gene flow and diversity. Panthera researchers are seeking to understand if the same results are occurring in Latin America for the jaguar.
The photos captured of the female jaguar with her cubs and the other individuals are important in understanding their habits. They demonstrate, in some instances, that jaguars are uninhibited by oil palm areas in Colombia. The location of the plantation and where the pictures were taken, near a protected area of forest with native habitat, create a “best case scenario” for the study of jaguar movements through oil palm plantations.
Dr. Esteban Payan, Panthera’s Northern South America Jaguar Program Director, stated, “Typically, jaguars can move across human-dominated landscapes by traveling through riparian forests or using road underpasses, but until now, scientists had no photographic proof that jaguars entered oil palm developments in this region.”
He explained, “Given the extensive amount of jaguar habitat overtaken by oil palm plantations in Colombia, we hope that certain plantations can be part of the Jaguar Corridor, enabling jaguars to reach areas with little or no human disturbances.”
Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative strives to join and conserve jaguar populations ranging from Argentina to Mexico, where humans have dominated the landscape with constructions such as palm oil plantations. Colombia, located between several South American countries and Panama, is a most significant area for the jaguar to pass through, from Central America to South America.
Dr. Howard Quigley, the Jaguar Program Executive Director for Panthera, said, “Human development in the shape of large monocultures, like oil palm plantations, are drastically changing the face of the planet, creating refugees out of wild cats by breaking up their habitats and forcing them to live within smaller, often degraded, and more isolated pockets of land. Data collected through Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative are critical for oil palm growers, national policy makers and local governments in their decision making so they can account for the needs of jaguars across their range and minimize impacts on wildlife.”
“Our data suggest that plantations can be part of a landscape mosaic that jaguars will use. But careful planning that avoids large-scale replacement of forest with huge palm oil areas will be essential if we want to avoid the kind of isolation that tigers now suffer,” stated Quigley.
Panthera encourages sustainable oil palm applications, and asks that farmers comply with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Recommendations, in order to reduce negative effects of widespread agricultural practices on biodiversity and to allow efforts like the Jaguar Corridor to be successful.
To see pictures and video, as well as a map of Colombia and its jaguar populations, visit Panthera´s webpage.

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