BBC Earth (Asia) - - Nature -

Howard Quigley, di­rec­tor of Pan­thera’s jaguar-con­ser­va­tion pro­gramme, ex­plains how cor­ri­dors link the cats’ iso­lated pop­u­la­tions. In the early 2000s, two im­por­tant ge­netic analy­ses were pub­lished on jaguars. They both de­scribed good lev­els of ge­netic diver­sity and gene flow. The con­clu­sion: from Ari­zona to Ar­gentina, the jaguar was a sin­gle species with no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for sub­species def­i­ni­tions. Pre­vi­ously slight anatom­i­cal dif­fer­ences had led zo­ol­o­gists to de­scribe nine sub­species.

Fol­low­ing this re­assess­ment, Pan­thera CEO Alan Rabi­nowitz came up with a new ap­proach to jaguar con­ser­va­tion. If the species was truly mov­ing its genes this ef­fec­tively through­out its huge range in the Amer­i­cas, avoid­ing the phys­i­cal and eco­log­i­cal iso­la­tion that causes ge­netic dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion, then it was up to us – the jaguar’s great­est com­peti­tor – to main­tain that con­nec­tiv­ity. But how?

Tak­ing ad­van­tage of the newly de­vel­op­ing science of bi­o­log­i­cal­cor­ri­dor map­ping, Rabi­nowitz and land­scape ecol­o­gist Kathy

Zeller cre­ated the Jaguar Cor­ri­dor Map. They iden­ti­fied 182 vi­tal pieces of jaguar habi­tat con­nect­ing 90 re­cently de­scribed core pop­u­la­tions of the cats. The next stage was to visit pro­posed cor­ri­dors on the ground, to check that the mod­el­ling process had been ac­cu­rate. Then it was time to take con­ser­va­tion ac­tion at a lo­cal level to help jaguars pass through hu­man-dom­i­nated land­scapes – for ex­am­ple across roads and ranches.

To­day the jaguar pro­gramme in­volves scores of gov­ern­ments and NGOs in a dozen coun­tries. It uses a com­bi­na­tion of cam­er­a­traps and ge­netic field­work – such as col­lect­ing and analysing scats – to mon­i­tor progress, with the ul­ti­mate goal of main­tain­ing con­nec­tiv­ity within the jaguar’s en­tire range.

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