While there are numerous conservation organisations working towards the preservation of the world's wildlife, Panthera is the only one dedicated solely to the conservation of the 38 species of wild cats and their ecosystems.
Who is Panthera?
Established in 2006, under the leadership of renowned conservationist Alan Rabinowitz, the organisation's key programmes focus on supporting the survival of the most endangered wild cats, which include Cheetahs, Pumas, Leopards, Snow Leopards, Lions, Tigers and the most elusive big cat of all, Panthera onca - the Jaguar.
The World's Most Ambitious Conservation Initiative
Although in some regions of South America the population of Panthera onca is relatively dense, in many others its survival is under threat. While the big cat exists in 18 countries in South and Central America, it has disappeared from more than 40% of its historic range. Although still found from Mexico down to Argentina, it has been declared extinct in Uruguay and Paraguay, and its conservation status is currently listed as ‘near threatened’.
The main threats the big cat faces are conflict with local ranchers, illegal hunting, fragmentation and loss of habitat due to deforestation, and declining numbers of prey species. In order to combat these challenges, Panthera has undertaken one of the most ambitious conservation initiatives in the world.
Consolidating the ongoing efforts of the WCS (The Wildlife Conservation Society) since 1990, the Jaguar Corridor Initiative’s mission was developed to protect more than six million square miles of range across 18 countries. Working in partnership with local communities, businesses and government agencies, Panthera is supporting the big cat's survival by creating a ‘corridor’ whereby they can safely pass through human landscape, reducing the fragmentation of their habitat.
Scientists begin by collecting data on the animals’ populations and the corridors of habitat through which they move, using innovative camera trapping to collect data and identify individuals. Because, in many instances, these corridors include human landscape (like plantations and cattle ranches), scientists focus on the implementation of sustainable agricultural practices in order to reduce the instances of human/big cat conflict. Programmes include training ranchers in the creation of predator-proof livestock enclosures and educating local communities about the dangers of overhunting smaller prey species.
Country by country, range by range, Panthera's sustained efforts are seeing results. The organisation has established a presence in 14 of the 18 range states, including Belize, Honduras, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Argentina, Guyana, Mexico, Panama, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Brazil.
Encounter Panthera onca on a Jaguar Holiday
For those who want to experience the thrill of seeing Panthera onca in the wild, a Jaguar holiday to the Brazilian Pantanal encompasses a vast area of prime habitat. On both day and evening drives, participants are guided through the diverse terrain of the Pantanal to catch sight of the magnificent big cat out on the jungle trails, in dense forests and even swimming or lazing around riverbanks or waterholes.
As well as being one of the world's most sought after wildlife experiences, the kind of ethical eco-tourism provided by a Jaguar holiday acts as a valuable conservation tool by raising the profile of these magnificent big cats and their endangered habitat.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar holiday itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.