More from Dersu Uzala

The mysterious “Dersu Uzala” has written again and the post is below. I have no idea who “Dersu” is but for reasons know only to him (or her!), he prefers to communicate this way. This particular post replies to Tony Poviltis and his question about what radio-collaring of jaguars would do to aid the species’ conservation.  Here’s Dersu:

I appreciate your thoughtful response, Tony. It is good to know that there are so many passionate advocates for the jaguar in Arizona. I think that, in itself, is going to be the key to saving the borderlands jaguar. In spite of the sad conflict that has been going on among jaguar supporters, the positive part is that it is an argument about how to best save the jaguar, and not about whether jaguars should all be killed or not, which was the main argument in the not so distant past.

As for your question about how data obtained from the satellite collaring of jaguars would help recovery, I am certainly not an expert in wildlife management, and I think we should trust the wildlife professionals with these kinds of questions. However, I think I gave quite a few reasons in my letter about how I thought it would be useful. The most important, I believe, would be to know the core areas of their occupied range, and the corridors they use connecting these core areas, as well as the corridors connecting them to the habitat in Sonora. I think this kind of information would be very valuable for a recovery plan.

Another important benefit to collaring that I did not mention is that it could be a great tool for developing a better relationship with ranchers. When a jaguar killed livestock, the time and location of the event would be known and could be investigated. Ranchers could then be reimbursed for their losses. These investigations can be difficult without this kind of precise data. This could go a long way in helping to promote cooperation with ranchers, and could possibly keep some jaguars from being killed. And we absolutely have to understand that without the cooperation of ranchers, there is very little chance of successful recovery. Not only is their good stewardship of the land essential, but also their ability to stay in business and keep those vast areas of open space intact. The alternative is more subdivision of the land and fragmentation. There is already too much of that in Arizona and all over the American west.

I think your thoughts on carefully looking at pros and cons of different means of capture should definitely be considered. Different methods seem to be appropriate for different situations. The jaguar project that I helped with in the rain forest of Costa Rica used box traps successfully.  Other jaguar projects have also used both snares and hounds with success.  The ten-year puma study done by Logan and Sweanor in the New Mexico desert used leg-hold snares, and had one of the safest capture rates anywhere. My old roommate from college, who spent over thirty years as a grizzly bear biologist with the Alaska Fish and Game Dept., safely sedated and collared over 1600 grizzlies in Alaska using a dart gun from helicopters. And the Siberian tiger study in Russia has been using leg-hold snares with good success. I think that we should probably leave these kinds of technical decisions up to the professional wildlife biologists who have the training and experience to know the best technology for particular situations.

The key to the conservation of all large predators is basically the same. They require large, healthy, intact ecosystems in order to survive. The question is how we can maintain these conditions in today’s world of increasing human population, the disconnection of much of that population physically and psychically from the natural world, and the continuing loss of those large tracts of healthy wild habitat. Can human civilization and wilderness live together? The jaguar’s fate depends on the answer to that question.

Dersu Uzala

One Response to “More from Dersu Uzala”

  1. Tony Povilitis Says:

    IF we could radio-collar a bunch of jaguars over their historical range in the US Southwest we’d learn specifics about their core areas and movement corridors first hand. Of course, that’s not possible. This is a rare species!

    So we have used the best biology and knowledge of jaguars and other large carnivores to identify those habitats. Take it from me with over 30 years as a conservation biologist, such an approach is common in endangered species recovery work. This information on jaguar habitat is available from a number of sources.

    Any decision to vigorously protect these essential habitat blocks and corridors is not made by wildlife biologists but by policy decision makers in our federal and state wildlife agencies. That’s what they get paid for.

    I have provided specific recommendations for jaguar habitat conservation to these agencies. Some of these recommendations followed closely commitments made by the Arizona Game and Fish Department (it’s Jaguar Conservation Team) to do jaguar habitat conservation work. These were never acted upon, and the commitments remain unfulfilled.

    We should stop kidding ourselves. There is an institutional problem here. I’m not sure what the political or ideological hand up is. There are plenty of ways of tackling the problem of habitat loss without undue regulations.

    A vigorous, concerted campaign is needed to safeguard habitat for jaguars and other wildlife in the Southwest. Public wildlife agencies must be a big part of that. Without their earnest involvement, efforts will continue to limp along until in all likelihood there is not enough habitat for jaguars to recover in.

    I ask you all to join our Jaguar Habitat Campaign — and challenge our public agencies on this important matter.

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