At an international conference on the jaguar and other tropical felines found in the Americas held in Cancun, June 8 -15 and attended by representatives of 20 countries, Mexico shared some important information about the country’s population of jaguars. The Second National Jaguar Census revealed that there are around 4,800 jaguars in Mexico, an increase of 20 percent over that reported in 2010.

The Census was coordinated by the Institute of Ecology in the National University of Mexico (UNAM) with the support of the National Commission of Protected Areas (CONANP) and the World Wildlife Fund-Fundacion Telmex Telcel Alliance. Twenty-five groups from 16 different academic institutions took part, installing 396 camera traps in 11 different sites throughout Mexico. The census locations were Montes Azules and La Sepultura Biosphere Reserves in (Chiapas), Sierra del Abra Tanchipa (San Luis Potosí), Los Chimalapas (Oaxaca), Laguna Om and El Edén Reserve (Quintana Roo), Nevado de Colima (Jalisco), Sahuaripa (Sonora), Meseta de Cacaxtla (Sinaloa), Sierra de Chilpancingo (Guerrero) and Punto Puuc (a point in the center of the Yucatan Peninsula where the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo converge).

Fitted to trees beside jungle trails used by wildlife or near water sources, the camera traps detect motion and take photos of jaguars, pumas and other creatures that pass by. For 60 days, the census cameras took photos of 20 different species, including peccaries, deer, agouti and wild turkey, all important prey animals for jaguars and pumas.

The survey results reflect heightened efforts to protect the jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas. The creation of new reserves in Mexico, improved coordination and census techniques, reforestation and increased awareness about the dangers this magnificent creature faces from habitat loss and illegal hunting are helping but more work is needed to bring this big cat back from the brink of extinction.

The creation of biological corridors linking reserves where jaguars are known to roam can help, as can reforestation, the protection of important swathes of forest under threat from development and adding wildlife passes (underpasses and bridges) on highways. Biologists are also working with rural communities and ranchers that see jaguars, pumas and ocelots as a danger to their livestock.

The largest populations of jaguars in Mexico are found in the southeast of the country, in the jungles of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas. In the Americas, the jaguar’s range extends from Arizona to Patagonia with the largest jaguar populations in the Amazon and Pantanal regions of Brazil. The number of jaguars in the wild stands at around 64,000. Throughout the region, governments, biologists and conservationists are looking to join forces in a global initiative to protect the species.

(Census information source: WWF)