How the WCS is Working to Conserve the Jaguar

Desiree Michels

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Nature enthusiasts who embark on a Jaguar holiday are among the privileged few who get the opportunity to observe the enigmatic and highly elusive big cat in its natural habitat. In the vast, bio diverse tropical wetland of the Brazilian Pantanal, Jaguar holiday participants travel through a region that's home to a relatively dense population of the big cat.

While nature travel companies make an encounter with the wildlife of South America more accessible than it ever was, there's a lot going on behind the scenes many people are unaware of. Without the dedication and innovation of a number of high-profile conservation organisations, many more animal species would be at risk of disappearing forever – including the magnificent Panthera onca.

Spotlight on Conservation

The WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) is an international organisation dedicated to preserving the remaining wild places of the world. With a focus on 15 key regions (which collectively are home to 50% of the world's biodiversity), the organisation's aim is to protect the plant and animal life of these wilderness areas to ensure the survival of some of the planet's most endangered species.

For wildlife lovers embarking on a Jaguar holiday, learning more about the work the WCS is carrying out across eight wild landscapes in South America offers an insight into the importance of such conservation programmes to preserving the big cat's greatly reduced habitat.

How the WCS is Helping

"Our aim is to ensure that healthy populations exist across the diversity of habitats in this big cat's range. “The population of wild Jaguars encompasses home ranges throughout Central, South and parts of North America. As an apex predator, the big cats roam and hunt a wide area and their survival relies on the density of smaller prey species. Loss of habitat through human encroachment and deforestation has meant that the population of many prey species has vastly diminished.

As every region presents its own unique threats to the big cats’ survival, the solutions the WCS brings must be tailored to suit the challenges. Working across a combined area of more than 400,000 sq kms of habitat, WCS is committed to the protection of more than 5,000 big cats. The organisation has been a leading authority on the animal since the 1980s (starting under the guidance of Dr George Schaller) and, in 1999, were responsible for bringing together local experts across the animal's extensive range in order to create a collaborative structural foundation for its conservation.

Methods employed by WCS include:

• Working with local ranchers to develop sustainable livestock management• Working with governments to enact animal protection laws• Educating local communities on economic alternatives to timber logging• Monitoring wildlife populations and analysing data• Controlling access to natural resources in vulnerable habitat areas• Educating local communities to reduce human/big cat conflict• Using data to inform collaborative community, regional and national initiatives

The Work Continues

The original framework set up by the WCS is still in place today, with the organisation employing a team of biologists in the various regions to stay abreast of any new threats to vital habitat. Dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and wild places through their programmes of education and conservation, the WCS continues to inspire the people of the world to respect, value and protect nature.

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.


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