New research shows that the jaguar is in trouble in two-thirds of its historic range. Part of the problem is that jaguars live in 18 countries and there is no coordinated plan for conserving them -- such wide-ranging species need conservation plans that transcend political boundaries.
"Biological conservation plans often respect political boundaries more than ecological ones," say Eric Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bronx, New York, and six co-authors in the February issue of Conservation Biology.
Jaguars once ranged from the southwestern U.S to northern Argentina. Threats to the big cats include poaching, habitat loss and competition with people for peccaries, tapirs and other prey.
Another threat to jaguars is that there is no consensus for how to conserve them. "Most countries do not have endangered species legislation of any kind, and if they do, laws are unlikely to be consistent across the 18 nations where the jaguar is currently found," say Sanderson and his colleagues.
To help shift the focus from politics to ecology, 35 jaguar experts from 12 countries were brought together by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Institute of Ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The experts conducted a range-wide assessment of the jaguar's long-term survival prospects, and set priorities for jaguar conservation areas. They accounted for factors including the areas' sizes and connectivity, and the extent of hunting of both jaguars and their prey.
The bad news is that the jaguar has lost more than half of its range since 1900, mostly in the southern U.S., northern Mexico, northern Brazil and southern Argentina. The good news is that the jaguar is likely to survive over the long-term in 70% of its current known range. The big cats are doing best in the middle of their range, in and around the Amazon Basin.
But that's not enough. Conserv