Category Archives: Day by day

Jaguar Conservation Workshop in Atibaia, São Paulo state, Brazil

Workshop for jaguar conservation creates a national action plan and predicts 60 years for the species to disappear in northeastern Brazil
By Rogério Cunha de Paula CENAP/ICMBio

Read the complete issue on:

Brazilian jaguar researchers and representatives from IUCN.


The jaguar meeting

Dear friends,
As a good Mineiro (native from Minas Gerais State) I will share in a “tale” format my meeting with a jaguar in the bush last December.

 A philosopher or some writer of “weirdoteric” book of self-help said – I am almost certain that I read it in some Richard Bach or Paulo Coelho (argh… finally the time of my life were I use to ready this stuff is over):

– Careful with your whishes, they can become true…

 So there was me and my brave squire Wilson in amazing adventures on Ivinhema State Park, Mato Grosso do Sul State. Across kilometers and kilometers of marshlands, landfills and everything else one can imagine, time to time needing to walk hours and hours seeking a tractor to take out the truck from the mud. Sometimes sleeping in farms storehouses, learning by practice how to fix diesel motors. I almost agreed with a friend that talks about the lucklessness of a Toyota “Band”. When I was already with the self esteem as an off road driver below zero, we discovery that – between another uncountable small defects – the truck lost the 4×4 traction. With my jedi field researcher honor recovered we continue our mission.

Since the appropriate introduction was made to create the state of mind of discouragement, exhaustion and – inconsistently – pleasure and satisfaction (no, we aren’t masoquists…) that the marsh can provide, we follow our mission to the second stage: camera trap review by boat through the Ivinhema river. With an intimidating wind shaking our small aluminum motorboat, we had to stop a couple of times. By the late afternoon, at the penultimate camera station, as always, we stopped the boat at the small ravine at the river bank and land.

The camera was around 20 meters from the river, close to the Fumaça river mouth, were it encounter the Ivinhema.

While we worked Wilson saw a scene, let’s say, bizarre. A savanna hawk (Buteogallus meridionalis) dead hanging by one wing in a tree. The wing was hold by a fishhook! A bird of prey gaffed as a fish by a fishertree!!! Who needs hallucinogens?


A bizarre scene…

Job done… When we was in the way back to the boat, around 10 meters from the river bank, with the late afternoon sunshine reflecting in the river creating a shadow effect in the trees, a different shadow suddenly crosses on the margin. The shadow of a 65-70 quilos cat running in complete silence in the boat direction.

– The Jaguar!!! Yell Wilson at the same time that my body instinctively reacts to the vision bombing liters of adrenalin through my veins making my heart desire to create legs and run away.

– Wow!!! !@#$%^&*!!! Prônkelafoi??? Cetavenela??? *&^%$##@!!! (Unfortunately it is necessary the SAP key to understand “mineirish”).

We moved slowly and saw through the vegetation some fur spots moving… calmly?!?!? Lying?!?! Licking, taking her cat bath almost beside the boat??? Uh, where is the neotropical forest beast? And we stand in there with a mix of fear, happiness, ecstasy, indescribable emotions and… surprise! She was in there – and probably was around us all the time, judging by the direction from it came from – taking its cat bath on the Ivinhema afternoon. She was practically ignoring the couple of biped primates that was staring at her and whispering about what they should do.


The jaguar looked to us…

First I thought: What would Sasha Siemel do? No, it is not a good idea… Hummm. What would Laury and Dênis do? What would Brian Boltano do??? It is hard to evaluate this things… Let’s improvise…

– We need to reach the boat Wilson! – At this point we was talking normally, almost offended by the snob jaguar who barely looked to us.

– How with the jaguar in there? – Answered Wilson

– I need pictures! I can’t leave without a Picture! Let’s come closer! Let’s go to that tree! Let’s always keep something between us and she! – Lot’s of pictures and also a short video, but the light reflected by the river in contrast with the darkness of the forest did not cooperate with the photos, at least one was reasonable. Hummm…

– Hey Wilson, get the tripod at the boat!!! Hehe!

– You go!!!

More than 15 minutes after the first time we saw her, we decided to get away from there. Time to time we heard a fuggy noise, something like a hand saw. Every time the sound repeated she looked in the direction of the noise like who is waiting for the hand saw to come walking.

– Wilson, I think it is a couple…

We decided to not stay for the meeting. We weren’t invited, you know, would not be educated. And when jaguars are in couple, they usually are doing things that everybody – well, most part of people –  prefer to do in privacy.

– Let’s scream! – Aaaand… nothing happened. The jaguar looked to us with disdain and superiority…

– Let’s throw something in her direction! – says Wilson – Let’s go. – I answer.

Like the first hominids running from saber tooth tigers we throw sticks on our feared and admired study object. She only moved a little and ride behind a tree. It was more than enough for us to break the world record of running, embark and start in motorboat!

As soon as the boat start to descend by the river she came back and lay at the same place!!! Only leaves when we turn on the motor!

We down the Ivinhema in the sunset direction with sensations that cannot be described by speaked or writed language. At the end of the day, all I could think was in Edgar Allan Poe words:

 “… And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!”

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We down the Ivinhema in the sunset direction…



Conservation Games

To celebrate my 13th (or is it the 16th? Think I lost the account… anyway) project proposal denied I decide to write some lines on this issue. E-mails starting with “…we regret to inform you…” can change pure hope in complete frustration… But what is behind it? The proposals do not achieve the excellence required? Technical problems? Limited funds? Priorities? Economical crisis? Maybe a little of each. Wait a minute, I just remember an important one: how about political issues? Doesn’t matter how many people review it. Doesn’t matter how different is the approach. Doesn’t matter how hard you try to change and improve it. Doesn’t matter how many nights you spend awake studying and writing. Doesn’t matter how hard you work in the field… Let’s think on the causes listed above. If you remember something, please, let me know.

Excellence. Yes, English is not my first language – and one can say that it is obvious by reading what I am writing – but two north-Americans and one British did a review on the text. The proposal was reviewed by jaguar specialists, ocelot specialists, landscape ecology specialists, ecologists, geneticists, and other “ists” from universities, NGO’s, Zoos and Governmental agencies in Latin America, USA and UK. These are just the ones I know. Here are not counted the reviews from the places where the proposal was submitted (they never send their review, even if you ask for it). The concept, background and actual results are been presented in scientific congresses, meetings and institutions. People always come to us to say how impressed they are and on their interest in know more or even participate on the work. Excellence is not eliminated, nothing is perfect, everything is evolving.

Technical problems. No methodology is perfect. We study a lot to increase precise and unbiased designs to collect our data. That is one of my major concerns at the moment. Reviewing literature we find lots of garbage that do not follow any assumptions and despite that are been published. A critical review is needed on camera trap sampling using capture recapture models and if you weight the number of projects using the methodology and the number of good estimates you will understand what I am talking about. Most part pretend to estimate wildcat densities and at the end all they can do with the data is a list of mammal species because do not had a sampling design BEFORE goes to the field. I am talking about this particular issue because is my concern now, but we can develop the same speech on other methodologies. We have a saying in Brazil: there are people that can take milk from stones… One can say: So, where are YOURS publications, Fernando? I am finishing my data collection, give me a few months.

Limited funds, crisis. Ok, there is an economical crisis and I can feel it on my bank account… Let me made something clear: our Landscape Detectives approach is divided by fronts. We have the jaguar and puma studies in Pontal been developed by IPÊ – Insituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas, in Ivinhema by Pró-Carnívoros and Ilha Grande also by IPÊ. All then along in the Upper Paraná Ecoregion one of most important area for conservation of neotropical cats. I am member of the jaguar team and coordinator the ocelot initiatives in Pontal – another front. The ocelot project had a long history from 1999 and I just jump in the history in 2003 informally and officially in 2005. I improve the design and expand the approach. The proposals are been submitted couples of years before the crisis.

On priorities I still talking on limited funds and arrive where I want: political issues… Sometimes is quite funny to see the Big International NGO’s – BINGOS fighting for their territory. How many times in events and meetings you find people from BINGOS without contribute with nothing, but spent lots of money in flights just to be there and mark territory? They launch beautiful books with titles like “last unbelievable threatened areas of the world” or “the last amazing almost totally destroyed ecosystems in the biodiversity hot points of earth”. They probably spend rivers of money to pay the photographers and, of course, marketing and design consultants to produce and give these cool names to the books. Oh, yes! There are lot’s of volunteers to do it also, but not all.

After all I have travel a lot on Atlantic Forest and never saw one of these beautiful books on local people hands. I indeed don’t have any, they are really, really expensive and don’t bring any relevant information. But they do have something: mixed with the landscape and almost extinct animals photos are excellent professional photos of poor simple local people from Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, India, Indonesia, Sumatra, Kenia, South Africa, etc, etc, etc… They are always smiling. The book is almost saying: look what a great job we are doing! Isn’t that great?

What local people think of that? I heard friends that work in small villages in Amazonian Forest saying how the local people reacts when BINGOS come to do protests that goes overseas against deforestation and they are not talking about the timber workers.  The locals have no idea why these people are in there and why they are doing this and they don’t seem to care in explain. Most part are “altruistic” volunteers that don’t even know and don’t care how to say good morning in Portuguese or understand local culture. You turn on TV and there are channels that only exhibit documentaries on animals and cool researches around the world. But between the lines what do you see? It is always Dr. Somebody from University Somewhere in Europe or North America – USENA is doing a research in blablabla. Dr. Somebody with his team of students of USENA now blablabla. Local people are field assistants, auxiliary, or equivalent. Why local researches are not in there? Why Dr. Somebody needs to bring his team? Why our adorable adventurer PhD. does not encourage local people to become a researcher? Why do not include local researchers? Too generalized? Ok, some exceptions do. But if we are talking on conservation it needs to change. Conservation depends on long term actions. It needs multidisciplinary approach. Conservation of endangered species is not just to write a dissertation. It is not just a North American or European coming to the tropics to collect the data and coming back to university. I repeat: Conservation needs long term action.

Conservation will be promoted by those who accept the challenge to leave their home countries and spend decades on the study region and those who already live and work in there.

Please, don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not saying that people from other countries shouldn’t come to do their researches. They must come! My point is: most of these development and even poor countries have good professionals, good universities and good – some excellent – research institutions. These researchers have the advantage to already know the culture, the language and most important: they live in the places. They are the main tool to promote conservation. They do not suppose to be treated just as labor. I know some people that are coming to collect jaguar data in Brazil to their PhD. and masters – of course there are many more. Ok, the specie needs research and we are happy in help then if they need to. But I also know dozens of brilliant Latin American students  and researchers that could – and want to – do the same job and maybe can do it better if they get the opportunity. Why they are not included or even consulted? I know researchers that are coming collect data on ocelots in South America – and this is great. I am glad for then. But, what make me mad is: the amount of money they spent just with flight tickets, accommodation and food could support one year of a local researcher project.

My ocelot project needs U$ 20.000 YEAR to carry on, and this is change compared with some projects doing the same. What is wrong? Why they approve a much more expensive project applied by a North American or European than a local if they have the same goals? Many times the local project is much more advanced and has long term objectives instead a short research for a graduate program. If the BINGOS, Universities and Grant Institutions don’t think we are able to do the job: say it! Please, don’t come with political correct e-mail answers talking about priorities if you are supporting research in areas where the specie is not endangered and refuses it in places where it needs recovery action just because of political stuff. Don’t threat us as fools! Don’t understimate us! And by us I mean people from all Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. This does not suppose to be a game.

Please, don’t interpret it as some xenophobic speech. I restore all my faith and admiration on North Americans after last president election! I still loving Scotland, Ireland (love your accent) and England. My list of things to do before die include go to Germany (to learn German is also in the list, but the first previous item sounds easiest). My point here is that conservation biology is about a global crisis and can’t be used as political games. It is important that researchers from all around the world join efforts on wildlife conservation, but this needs to be made together, not top-down or bottom-up.

Yes, I am frustrated. Yes, I am angry and tired. But, of course, I am too stubborn to quit… I will do it, even if I have to pay from my own pocket. You will see…



Are jaguars killing everything?

Back on July we went to the forest fragment Tucano to start sampling this area. I have to confess that I didn’t want to do this now. In 2005 we start a pilot study on ocelots in the fragments. At that time we only had eight camera-traps and set up all in Tucano. Four was taken, probably destroyed by hunters… we had to put the study in standby until we enough resources to buy more equipment. Think it could be better to do this sample at the beginning of the next year, but we had to anticipate despite my fears of new equipment losses. What is done is done… let’s go on!

Then me, Cicinho, Wilson, the vet Marcelo and Camila – a treinee, went to Seo Menezes house in a settlement to go to the forest. Seo Menezes and his wife Dona Francisca always receive us very well with a cup of coffee and we talk about all kind of stuff.


Seo Menezes and his wife Dona Francisca always receive us very well with a cup of coffee and we talk about all kind of stuff.

This particular occasion the conversation flows to an interesting way. Seo Menezes starts to ask why we are bringing jaguars back to the region! We explain that we are not bringing then from other places, they are coming by themselves since Tucano is close to the Morro do Diabo State Park. Then Seo Menezes continues with his point:
– When we arrive here, there were animals all around! We didn’t need to hunt; one could get an armadillo with naked hands! Now these jaguars are killing everything! We don’t see any animals more.
– How about the hunters, Seo Menezes?
– Noooooooooo… nobody hunts here…


… and the conversation flows to an interesting way.

We try to explain in simple words some points. OK. To understand it we need to know a little on the Pontal history. The fragmentation process in Pontal is quit recent (<60 years) an it took place at extremely high rates. Farmers used orange angent – the same chemical used by USA in Vietnam to take off tree leaves – and after that burn the forest to take possession of the land. Thos who have interest in know more I would recommend the must read Warren Dean book “With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest”.


With Broadax and Firebrand: The Destruction of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest

So let’s bring it in a simple example. Imagine the oceans start to raise… think it’s not difficult to imagine that – since Global Warming came to environmental agenda everybody is talking about it. In this example let’s put this in a extreme rates: there still just a few islands in the world, where used to be the highest mountains. Millions of people would die, but to where the survivors will run?
Same with animals! All the survivors run for their lives to the forest refugees. This “inflates” the population size. This situation is temporary, because there is not enough resource to everybody and individuals starts to die from starvation, low reproductive rate, disease, high infant mortality… Until it reach an “equilibrium”. Some species disappear and usually the most sensitive to environmental changes goes first.
It bring us to another issue: carnivores! The big things that run the world! Without predators, prey goes wild and increase population size. It brings radical changes in the system. More competitive prey species eliminate others and we have a decline in diversity. If you found that interesting you NEED to read “Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators”, well cited by our friends on SouthWest Jaguars Blog.


Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators

Well… after a while trying to explain to Seo Menezes that jaguars are not the real problem we decided to go to the forest and work! After all, is what we suppose to do in there.
Tucano is a definitely a dense bush! Lot of hard work and we could install only three cameras in one day! Despite Seo Menezes delusion that nobody hunt in there we found five “cevas” and a jararaca snake to complete day.


Where is the snake?


A ceva is a place where hunters frequently leave food for pacas, agoutis, peccaries, etc. When they see that the animals are using it they construct a rudimentary ladder in a tree and wait. When the animal comes to a meal, it becomes the meal…



When the animal comes to a meal, it becomes the meal…

See you in Monday!


The return of the jedis

After a while on the bush and in the rush here we are again to share with you our struggle to survive and attempts to promote wild cat species survival in Pontal. Many things happened, passing by two expeditions tracking jaguars, pumas, ocelots and their prey in Mato-Grosso-do-Sul State, the National Mammalogy Meeting, camera review at Pontal and the Nine Inch Nails tour been canceled on South America. How could they do this to us??? Terrible lie…

We are really grateful to your help supporting our work. Each donation, no matter how much, is important to us to keep it going. Pirjo I, Kristian, Angelica, J.B., Wanda and my dear Sheryl, thank you very much! Thank you all for your support!


From left: Laury Cullen, Dênis Sana and Kauê Abreu.

See you tomorrow!

Fernando, Laury, Dênis and Kauê


Dear friends,

It has been difficulty to come last days. We are in intense field activities and promise to bring good news soon! Tomorrow I am living in an expedition to another jaguar study site in Mato-Grosso-do-Sul state. I will be without any kind of communication with the “external world”. Well… sometimes we can get cell phone signal on the top of the water reservoir. If it works I will try to connect. Wish luck to our team! Hope to bring good news and lots of adventures from the field soon!




Ocelots do not have 9 lives… unfortunately

First of all, I would like to thanks to Wanda, Sheryl and Pirjo who did donate to our project and are helping to support our work.

Thank you a lot for your help!

We are in intense field activities, what is troubling us to post more frequently.

To work with endangered species conservation is a challenge per se, but sometimes we need to deal with some surprises – not the good kind of. Yesterday we was on the way to the forest fragment Tucano when we saw an animal killed by a car. An ocelot…


…when we saw an animal killed by a car. An ocelot…

Of course it is terrible to see any kind of animal killed by cars in roads, but this one was difficulty to deal. It takes one or two minutes for me to focus my mind and starts to “work properly”. After all we are humans and are definitely working on it because we love to do it, so I think we can request the right to get upset and sad in see an awesome wildcat, top predator, millions of years in evolution there just laying in a road as a vulture next meal. 🙁

It was an sub-adult male, probably dispersing trying to fix his own territory. We get some basic information and, after a double check on my license from the Environmental Government Agency allowing me to do it, we get the carcass to a biopsy and collection of biological samples.

…we get some basic information…

After all it will give us important information on health, genetics and diet from the specie on the region. Cássio Peterka, veterinarian, collect the samples, which will be sent to Universities and the bank of biological samples of CENAP/IBAMA – Research National Center for Natural Predators Conservation.

We have a lot of work to do if we still wanting these animals around for the next generations.

See you soon…

What the bleep do we do with $15.00???

Dear friends, yesterday I went to Presidente Prudente – the “regional capital” of Pontal do Paranapanema – 100 Km far from Teodoro Sampaio. In my backpack was the last 35 film rolls from Ponte Branca and Seis R that I sent to be processed. This is the best part of the work with cameras: you never know what will came!!! In the mean time I get the opportunity to deal with personal stuff at the city. During the hike I did started to wonder – as usual – on the blog and next post. I did remember then that it just reach 5.000 views from people in all continents! It is not too much compared with other blogs, indeed there are blogs that reach it in fifteen days. The point is: from the beginning we never realize how wide-ranging it could be!

Then another point – a not so nice one – came to my mind: it had been a great tool on public awareness and conservation spread – at least, I like to believe in it – but we still really needy on the donations issue. In five months we get one $50.00 donation (thanks again Theresa!).

In globalization times it is not difficulty to perceive how the stock market is affecting in a bad way all levels of economy around the world. Maybe that’s the reason! Economic recession! Hummm… Is it? Thinking more, I starts to realize: $15.00 is too much??? Then came the question…

– What the bleep* do we do with $15.00/month???

You know, things price vary a lot from place to place and my effort to realize the price of some stuff it was useless. I asked, then, for help. The real question was: How many stuff that we do not really need and, despite of that, we do buy along the month with $15.00? We did a list with ten items:

01 – 03 Starbucks Coffee late. If you try Brazilian or Colombian coffee you will agree with me that this can not be called coffee… 😛

02 – 03 Magazines. Why not to get up to date by internet?

03 – 15 Newspapers.
Again, why not to get up to date by internet?

04 – 02 pints of Guinness. No comments on this (you are forgived!)

05 – 15 I-Tunes songs. Don’t tell to anybody (it’s illegal), but you can find almost everything to download for free!

06 – Two movie tickets. You deserve it!

07 – 7 subway passes. I do prefer “Underground”!!! Mind the gap! Anyway, the amount change between places but you get the point.

08 – One baseball hat. Corse you don’t buy a baseball hat every month. Unless you are a collector or have some kind of obssession. If you stop and think, will you find another stuff that is not exactly necessary and so you could safe? Want to bet?

09 – 3 gallons of gasoline. How many kilometers or miles you do with this? If you try, can you safe 3 gallons/month?

10 – 4 ice cream cones. Summer, sunny days… You can substitute these by another items every seasons. The point is: Is it really difficulty to safe in this issue?

Point made, so let’s talk about what WE do.

Every month we have approximately 35 camera traps working in forest fragments in the Pontal do Paranapanema region. This is an important non-invasive tool that allow us to gather information on demography, biology, ecology and natural history not only from wild cats but also from their prey and general mammal community.

These sampling efforts are part of the wide conservation program which we have been discussing here in every post.

To setup and maintain each camera in the field we use every month:

3 batteries Size C: $6.50,
2 batteries Size AA: $3.00
1 Film roll with 36 frames 400ASA: $5.50

So, if you can make some calculations and at the end you think you are able to give up from some stuff – or if you already are able to do it without give up of anything – please, help us to keep going with our work. It probably will not make a great change in your life, but if some of you – let’s say 35 – donate $15.00/month we can guarantee the continuation of our camera trap sampling.

Please, think on it!

We are in field companion so I don’t know exactly when I will be able to post.

Keep it coming!

See you soon!

*(Sorry about the “bleep”, if you don’t understand the analogy with “What the bleep do we know?” nevermind)

Jaguar Corridors

A genetic bank, with 3 thousand seedlings of 100 species of Atlantic Forest trees, was planted last Friday in a collective effort of IPÊ, volunteers, students and land owners.
All the seedlings was obtained in partnership with CESP (Electric Company of São Paulo) and the objective is to maintain, in the same place, a large diversity of species, to preserve Atlantic Forest regional diversity. “We will have an area to collect seeds to our reforestation projects, it is an alive Atlantic Forest museum.” explains Laury Cullen, IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas researcher.

Genetic resources bank with 3 thousand seedlings from Atlantic Forest species.

This bank will improve the reforestation programs that IPÊ has promoted and have already reforested 500 ha (5 Km2) only in Pontal do Paranapanema. The firsts seeds from the last action can starts to be collected in three to four years.
The planted area has 2 ha and was purchased by IPÊ thanks to Programa Petrobras Ambiental (Petrobras Environmental Program) sponsorship. In this area, close to the Paranapanema river, will be constructed also the Centro de Capacitação em Meio Ambiente da Petrobras (Petrobras Environment Capacitating Center), a reference place to agroecology, water conservation and environmental education. It will attend students, teachers, stake holders and technician from all over the country.

Source: ABIDES
Photos: Fernando Lima

I do not remember the last time I had the same sensation that I felt last Friday helping planting the seedlings. They use to say that all men need to write a book, have a child and plant a tree. Well… actually, we did plant a small forest!!! To know that you can come back in some years and see a small forest knowing that you help to create it with your own hands is priceless. I felt a mix o idealism and belief, the same feelings that bring me to work on conservation but – unfortunately – is, sometimes, so easy to forgot in the rush or even getting discouraged and hopeless in the middle of so much destruction and stupidity all around the world.

Dear friends, this is part of a great effort to promote landscape connectivity between forest fragments and ultimately connect biodiversity. We are doing this using our jaguar and ocelots data by understanding how these species “sees” or “perceives” the landscape. But is not easy and we need all help we can get. Even if you cannot be here personally and help us to plant or to gather jaguars and ocelots data, you still have the opportunity to help us by donating to the project. Please, think on it.

See you on Friday!

The hunt to save jaguars – Complete Issue

“There is no bigger thrill then when you shoot a jaguar” says hunter Carlos Roberto Platero. He follow a trail in one of the last portions of Mata Atlântica preserved in the Ivinhema, southern part of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The dogs are Platero’s eyes in the forest. They are trained to sniff out and surround jaguars. They continue to walk until they are interrupted by a sequence of howls. The hunter then places the rifle on his back and disappears down the trail in the direction of the racket of howls. In the meters ahead, a jaguar is found on the limb of a tree. It has been surrounded and trapped by the dogs. Platero aims the rifle at the animal and one shot is all that is necessary to bring the animal down. “The hunt is over”, says.

The hunt captured a female jaguar, the third largest felid in the world. “We catch Tina”, says Laury Cullen, a forestry engineer from the IPÊ – Instituto de Pesquisas Ecológicas (Institute of Ecological Research). “We had met this jaguar before”. Laury and Platero are old friends and they have captured over than 30 jaguars together with the aid of the dogs. However, they are not traditional hunters. They do not kill animals. The shoot was a paralyzing dart that delivers an anesthesia to the animal. Tina is only sleeping.

Moving to the other side: from hunt to conservation. Carlos and his “jaguar dogs” (onceiros).

The jaguar hunt is part of a program that has been changing the way to create forest reserves in Brazil. Researchers now are able to follow the animals before drawing maps of the best areas for protection. The capture gives time for the team to place a radio collar around the neck of the jaguar that will emit radio signals to allow for the monitoring of the movement of the animal. Tina is one of the animals that is monitored from distance. The objective of capturing this particular jaguar was to change the equipment from the collar that had been installed three years ago. The data retrieved from the radio collar that is passed to a researcher’s computer reveals the paths followed by the felids. “It is as if we are asking them what are the most important regions for them to live”, says Cullen.

“Thanks to this research, we are able to understand that jaguars don’t only live in the shelter of the core of forests, but venture out quite often. Therefore, it is not unusual to see jaguars walking close to farms and cities.” With this information, the researchers are beginning to find error with the traditional way in which protected areas were chosen for creation. “The original methodology resulted in the formation of forest reserves that were isolated. True islands were protected that were very rich in biodiversity, but were very detached from other forest fragments”. The lack of a linkage between areas has been recognized as a major obstacle in the reproduction of animals and plants. “The limited genetic exchange in small populations can result in waves of extinction. Or worse, can increase the incidences of road kills in between reserves when an animal decides to migrate from one fragment to another in search of partners.”

The Jaguar as Landscape Detectives project has already helped to form a corridor of 2.500 km of forest that goes from São Paulo to Paraguay

“When we saw the maps resulting from our studies we decided to discard definitely the old school practice of create natural reserves by studies made inside offices”, notes Cullen. The new model proposed by IPÊ follows the concept of natural corridors, which are areas beyond the borders of the forest in which the animals move – including farms and edges located near roads and cities in many regions. It has taken more then ten years of research to arrive at the ideal model. As a result, the monitoring of jaguars has produced one of the largest national programs to save Mata Atlântica, the most threatened ecosystem in the country.

The first task of the researchers was to trace the continuous area that makes up the remainder of the forest throughout an area of a 2.500 km expanse. The forest corridor begins in São Paulo and follows down to the Brazil and Paraguay border. Some fragments are already conservation areas, while others must be created to piece areas together, nominated as the Biodiversity Corridor of the Upper Paraná. The concern for jaguars generates added benefits – it helps to preserve the vegetation that protects the resources of lower south and southeaster regions. The conservation acts will guarantee the water supply to southern cities where almost 55% of the Brazilian population currently lives. The research that IPÊ carries out helps to preserve other species of animals and plants as well. “We choose to place the radio-collars on the jaguars because they represent the top of the ecological food chain. By knowing where these felids circulate, you additionally know where their prey – such as peccaries and tapirs – do”, says Cullen.

Once the obstacle of connecting fragments and understanding how to conserve jaguars had been carried out, a new problem arose. How can the survival of jaguars in the region be guaranteed when they are constantly under threat from a growing human population? The first obstacle that faced was overcoming the resistance of farmers to the project. Pastoralists are historical enemies of the jaguar – after all they invade pastures and attack cattle. A jaguar can devour up to 40 one-year old calves per year. To prevent attack on their stocks, pastoralists often contract hunters. However – it was the arrival of agriculturalists to the area that transformed the landscape, adding cattle to a jaguars list of possible prey. The extent of deforestation that arose from the formation of pastures caused small animals that could not easily disperse to other fragments to disappear, shifting cattle to being a protein source for these large felids. “I have already hunted and killed many jaguars for pastoralists in the Pantanal”, says Platero. “But now I only work with the researchers – I peruse the hunt with the same thrill even though the animal is not killed”. The challenge for the IPÊ team is to not only change the conscience of the hunter, but also the land owners in the region.

How does one convince the farmers that the jaguars are not a threat? “At the start I thought about giving up. To place radio collars on the jaguars seemed like so easier”, says Cullen. Luckily for the jaguar, the scientists had an idea to make a pact with the cattle owners. The researchers started to plant trees for the pastoralists. A great majority of the landowners in the South and Southeastern area have destroyed much of the forest illegally, and now are required by law to reforest, or face the fines and restrictions of agricultural credits. To help these farmers reforest was the focus of the partnership. In exchange, farmers would pledge to no longer kill jaguars. The agreement has been solidified and is a great success because it made economic sense – replanting 1 hectare of forest can cost up to eight thousand Reais (US$ 5,000.00), while a year-old calf only three hundred (US$ 185.00). “In the end, the damage that jaguars inflict on cattle is small”, notes Osmar Cirino Lopes a rancher at Ponte Branca Farm in Teodoro Sampaio- “It was a good agreement on both sides”.

Laury sowing a new forest corridor on Pontal on a communitarian event.

This partnership has already changed the landscape of the Pontal do Paranapanema, where the project began. The old picture of degraded pastures and deserted fields is now being replaced by hues of green. The first spots of new forests can be seen now in the region. The population of jaguars has been increasing. “It has people accusing me to bring jaguars from other areas in Pontal!!!” notes Cullen.

Research also happens at the sites of agricultural settlements. In the 1980’s, there was a big push in the region for agricultural settlement that attracted thousands of people. In less than two months, settlements were popping up all around the last reserve in the Atlantic Forest: the Morro do Diabo State Park. “I thought that if our approach did not appeal to the people in these agricultural settlements, that all of our preservation efforts would be in vain and not effective”, says Cullen. “Without getting orientation they would be the first to knock the trees down to make room for agriculture”. The beginning of the dialogue with locals was marked with discordance. “Many people felt as if the project was seeking to keep on eye on their practices”. Today, many of the settlements are integrating the project. Jose Santiago was one of the first: “I have a little problem with the jaguars, but my need to have trees in my lot wins out”, says Jose showing the forest planted on his land with the aid of IPÊ.

The project has also changed the life of settled sons. They are responsible by the seedlings that will be planted on farms and other settlements. In ten years, more than 2 million trees have be planted in the region – this is the equivalent of the area of 30 Ibirapuera Park, one of the greatest in São Paulo. Luís Soares is one of the youths that helps out on the project. He has been inspired by the success of the program, and was just approved in a Biology undergraduate course. “The change that I have witnessed has made this the best work I have done so far”, he affirms.

By add a social component with this research project for jaguars, the researchers have commanded international recognition. Cullen and his IPÊ team had received the Whitley Gold Award from the Royal Geographical Society. Princess Anne, who delivered the prize, also came visit IPÊ headquarters during a trip to Brazil in 2007. Cullen received additional recognition by gaining the Rolex Awards for Conservation of Nature. The money (US$ 5 thousand) was for the project in the Pontal. The watch today, is safe in his house. “It is too chic to be used for jaguar hunts”, says Cullen. “But it is a symbol of the success of our efforts”.

Researchers have found seven spotted jaguar in the Caatinga, a region where they were once considered extinct.

Similar projects have started to come about across the country. The newest study is in the Caatinga in the northeast. In this region, the spotted jaguars were considered extinct. Today, seven individual cats have been identified. “We are monitoring these individuals to understand how we connect areas of the Caatinga. It is a chance to save this vegetation in the country”, says Ronaldo Gonçalves Morato, head of the National Center of Research and Conservation of Natural Predators of Ibama. In the Pantanal, the jaguars also can aid in the dream to conserve the area. In the North there is an area protected by a national Park in Mato Grosso, but the other half in Mato Grosso do Sul is not. By following the jaguars, the researchers want to identify the optimal conservation units that would cover their most critical habitat in the Pantanal. “We want to create a good natural corridor that enters the Pantanais, a mesoregion of Mato Grosso, to protect the entire region”, says Sandra Cavalcanti, a biologist from the Panthera Foundation. All of the research uses the capture-recapture models with camera traps and monitoring signals from radio-collared jaguars. The same equipment in Ivinhema is deployed for the jaguars in this region. “I never thought that shooting a jaguar would go so far beyond the pure fun of a hunt”, Platero says.


What is being done to protect these animals and the regions where they live

puma01.JPG PUMA, COUGAR or SUÇUARANA (Puma concolor)
This species has a large distribution and is adaptable to degraded environments. All of the national registrations of attacks on human beings have been by pumas. The last occurred in the 1980’s, in a village of scientists in Siderúrgica Vale do Rio Doce, in Pará.

onca01.JPG BLACK JAGUAR (Panthera onca)
Although there is a color difference, this species is the same as the spotted jaguar. The change in coloration is due to a genetic mutation. Due to their small population size this mutation has become fixed producing jaguars that are black in color in Pontal do Paranapanema.

jaguar02.JPG JAGUAR (Panthera onca)
This is the third largest felid in the world, behind tigers and lions. It can measure up to 2.1 meters in length and weigh up to 135 kilograms. They are a species of cat that are able to successfully kill their prey with the force of a bite into the skull. Like the lion the jaguar will emit a roar. In 2006, seven of these felids in the Caatinga were rediscovered- the animal was once considered extinct in the region.


Researchers monitor the animals in order to define protected areas

1. Mata Atlântica Corridor
It is the biggest national project to connect fragments in Mata Atlântica. It follows from Pontal do Paranapanema, in São Paulo, all the way to Paraguay.

2. Caatinga Corridor
The re-discovery of jaguars promoted the protection of this vegetation and the creation of the National Park of Boqueirão da Onça in Bahia.

3. Pantanal Corridor
The Panthera Foundation bought an area in Mata Groso to promote the connection of two parks. The idea is to expand this initiative to the Pantanal.

4. Norte do Mato Grosso
In an region where the destruction of Amazônia has accelerated, monitoring can help to define priority areas for conservation

5. Calha do Rio Amazonas
This area still has an extent of connected forest. In this region, all jaguar species move freely.

Source: Revista Época
Translation: Kaitlin Baird and Fernando Lima

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