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 Animals  Belize Project #34794

Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize

by Ya'axche Conservation Trust
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Reduce Clashes Between Jaguars & Farmers in Belize
Farmer and his cattle during Milwaukee Zoo visit
Farmer and his cattle during Milwaukee Zoo visit

We have been working hard and in partnership with cattle farmers across southern Belize’s Maya Golden Landscape (MGL) to promote coexistence between farmers raising livestock and the jaguars, which call the intact, broadleaf forests home.

In January, Ya’axché hosted a group of docents from the Milwaukee Zoo who have a special connection with Belize, our jaguars and Ya’axché’s Human-Jaguar Conflict program. In 2008, their zoo had been a recipient of a rehabilitated jaguar from the Belize Zoo, who had almost met his demise by a cattle farmer due to livestock predation. This jaguar, affectionately known as Pat, unfortunately passed away in 2017. However, the Milwaukee Zoo’s interest in Belize’s jaguar population has continued and the partnership between the Zoo and Ya’axche has been strengthened by this most recent visit. The docent group attended presentations by Ya’axché’s Human-Jaguar Conflict Officer, as well as other staff, and got the opportunity to visit a human-jaguar conflict program farm, where they saw firsthand the mitigation measures in action and heard from the farmer the impact of the Human-Jaguar Conflict Program on their farm success and livelihoods.

There is a similar need for coexistence within Maya Mountain North Forest Reserve (MMNFR), a protected area comanaged by the Belize Forest Department and Ya’axché. MMNFR is quite a unique case, as Ya’axché was permitted the right to establish a 936-acre cacao agroforestry concession within the Reserve’s boundaries. Although the 31 farmers working with the concession are not raising cattle, they are indeed advancing their livelihoods based upon the productivity of the land, cacao trees and coexistence between fauna, flora and people.

In 2019, Ya’axché undertook a camera trap study, during Belize’s dry season, to understand the level of biodiversity within the MMNFR cacao agroforestry concession. The results of the study, carried out by Ya’axche’s Science program, demonstrate an incredible amount of biodiversity and species richness, including photos of the five big cat species which call Belize home - the jaguarundi, margay, ocelot, puma and of course, the jaguar.

Coexistence between farmers, jaguars and the landscape is key across the MGL. Highlighted here are just two examples of program success. We thank you for continuing to support Ya'axché's Human-Jaguar Conflict Program.

Jaguarundi - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Jaguarundi - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Puma - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Puma - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Ocelot - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Ocelot - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Margay - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Margay - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Jaguar - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science
Jaguar - MMNFR Camera Trap, Ya'axche Science

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Cattle of small scale farmer
Cattle of small scale farmer

Since 2017, we began working with farmers to adopt measures to protect their livestock from jaguar predation and educate them about jaguar ecology; and now, we are seeing changes in farmers' perceptions towards jaguars in southern Belize.

We partnered with the Colorado State University's Conservation Leadership master's program to assess our Human-Jaguar Conflict Program. We wanted an honest assessment of the work done so far and recommendations of the next steps to a possible program expansion. Two CSU master's students consulted with staff involved in and participating farmers of the program.    

The students conducted semi-structured interviews and participated in a livestock farmer forum to learn more about the farmers' experiences prior and after the adoption of mitigation measures. The 9 participating farmers, in addition to clearing around the perimeter of the farm, installed solar lights where cattle slept at night, improved corral to help protect calves, improved fencing to keep jaguars out and cows in, and introduced donkeys to help alert the herd of cattle. Each farm had at least one of the mitigation measures implemented on their farm.  

The most effective adopted mitigation measures, which prevented the loss of livestock, especially calves, were solar lights and improved corral. Only one farmer lost a calf at the beginning of the program, prior to the changes in the management of livestock farms. A farmer, after setting up electric fencing and seeing that it has been effective in deterring jaguars, has decided that he can continue on his own and that Ya’axché focus resources to support another farmer in the Maya Golden Landscape. 

Education and mitigation measures that work has been important in the perception change, farmers are okay with jaguars being around and not preying on livestock. Of course the assessment has indicated that more work needs to be done, more resources are needed, more farmers to be engaged and partnerships to be strengthened to increase impact of the Human-Jaguar Conflict Program. 

Individual supporters, Disney Conservation Fund, Colorado State University, various partners and the livestock farmers have all made the successes possible thus far. As we seek to include more farmers in and improve the program and plan to reduce the increasing impacts of the forest loss and competition for the food of the jaguars in the Maya Golden Landscape, we remain positive that the top predators can be around for future generations in the forests of Belize. Thank you for support our Human-Jaguar Conflict Program!

Small scale livestock farmer from Medina Bank
Small scale livestock farmer from Medina Bank
Livestock farmer forum at Ya'axche's Field Center
Livestock farmer forum at Ya'axche's Field Center
A jaguar photographed at Maya Mountain North FR
A jaguar photographed at Maya Mountain North FR

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On March 30, 2019, Ya’axché Conservation Trust's Human/Jaguar Conflict team met with the nine farmers currently utilizing mitigation strategies on their farm. Our Protected Areas Management Director, Protected Areas Manager and Research Officer, facilitated a farmer forum at Ya’axché's Golden Stream Field station to discuss the ongoing progress of mitigation measures, review mitigation data, and determine the most effective strategies for preventing jaguar attacks on livestock. Farm profiles were compiled and reviewed to assess the success of mitigation combinations. Farmers engaged in an open discussion about their experiences with the different mitigation tools on their farms. The accompanying camera traps deployed on farms helped the team and farmers to monitor the presence of jaguars and other wildlife around the farm. During the discussion, farmer's were asked four questions:

-What are the main issues in your farm?

-How can you contribute to reducing the human-jaguar conflict?

-What can we do to work together (Ya’axché and Farmers)?

-What is the best way to receive information about the human jaguar conflict?

The feedback from farmers was positive and it was clear that over time, these farmers have come to view this project as more of a partnership than an initiative led by Ya’axché. In addition, they recognized their own role in the success of the program and have embraced the responsibility of monitoring and data collection. Based on the review of profiles and the feedback from farmers, it has been concluded that the most successful combination of mitigation measures is the 360 degree solar lights when combines with proper coral use and fencing of the farm. These forums serve to better inform our human/jaguar conflict team on the measures to implement on potential new farms. Moving forward, Ya’axché is gathering information to implement 2 more demonstration farms based on needs assessments in target communities. Contributions from GlobalGiving donors, help to make this initiative possible and allows us to assist farmers to protect their livelihood, and Ya’axché to protect jaguar population is southern Belize.

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Jaguar caught on camera trap
Jaguar caught on camera trap

Since November, the Ya’axche Human/Jaguar Conflict officer and team have been focusing on gathering important data on the wildlife that surrounds our demonstration “jaguar-friendly” farms. Through your kind donations, and the assistance of the Disney Foundation, we have been able to deploy camera trap; and, we have spent the past two months visiting farms to collect photos from each of those traps. Through this collection of data, the Ya’axche team has noted a desire from farmers to receive training on how to process that camera trapping data. This would allow farmers to contribute to data analysis of farm biodiversity data. With this in mind, the human/jaguar conflict team has begun plans for upcoming activities to expand the program. The near future includes a meeting with cattle farmers from demonstration farms to maintain their commitment to continue biodiversity monitoring through camera trapping on their farms. Their commitment will allow for them to receive training on data retrieval and processing.

In other positive news, there has not been any report of jaguar attacks on any of the demonstration “jaguar friendly” farms since November. This is can be partly attributed to the success of the mitigation strategies suggested through our human/jaguar conflict program. Jaguar sightings have been more numerous around the communities in the Maya Golden Landscape (MGL). Video evidence has been shared on social media from witnesses to a jaguar swimming in the Independence lagoon in southern Belize. On January 15, 2019, Ya’axche’s very own Community Outreach and Livelihood Liason Officer, Julio Chub, spotted two young jaguars along the highway near Medina Bank, and managed to capture a photo of one of them. This gives us hope that jaguar populations remain stable in the MGL, which we hope to confirm through analysis of biodiversity monitoring grids like the camera traps integrated on our demonstration farms.

The success of the current demonstration plots serve as a framework for the expansion of the human/jaguar program and provide valuable evidence of successful mitigation techniques. These are highly valuable in agricultural farms of the MGL where conflicts with wildlife are still occuring. Just last month, Ya’axche received a report from one of the “jaguar friendly” farmers, that a neighbouring farm was attacked by a wildcat. Ya’axche later learned that the farmer took retaliation into his own hands and a puma, suspected to be responsible for the attacks, was shot as a result. These events are an example of what Ya’axche hopes to prevent by equipping farms with effective mitigation strategies. The continued support of our donors will allow us to continue the expansion of the program and promote coexistence with wildlife within the Maya Golden Landscape. Ya’axche thanks the donors who allow us to continue our ongoing outreach and technical assistance to rural farmers. Your contribution allows wildlife to thrive safely in their natural home ranges to support a healthy ecosystem for residents of southern Belize. Please continue to support the ongoing human/jaguar conflict mitigation program, and spread the word to friends and colleagues as there is lots more to be done. Check out our other GlobalGiving campaigns to see where your donations can contribute to other areas of conservation like our Bioblitz campaign. https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/help-children-of-toledo-belize-attend-bioblitz/

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Agnis Ujan with motion-sensitive sound device
Agnis Ujan with motion-sensitive sound device

Our Human Jaguar Conflict team at Ya’axché Conservation Trust has dedicated the last two months to conducting in-depth assessments of the strategies we have employed to mitigate jaguar attacks on farms. This has included one-on-one visits with farmers to evaluate the effectiveness of the unique mitigation strategies used on each livestock farm. In this report, we would like to highlight a follow-up with a female cattle farmer, Agnis Ujan of Big Falls village, southern Belize.

Angis has dedicated her life to raising cattle and it is the only form of income to support her family. One of the major challenges she has faced is losing calves due to jaguar predation. With the help of Ya’axché’s team, support from GlobalGiving donors, and funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), we followed up with Agnis about the effectiveness of mitigation measures employed on her farm.  

Agnis has utilized a combination of camera traps surrounding her farm, installed motion lights to help protect her cattle, and improved her fencing and corrals. Agnis has revealed that since implementing these strategies last year, she has not lost a single calf. She was also appreciative of how much she has learned about wildlife monitoring through this initiative. Agnis not only changes SD cards monthly and self adjusts camera traps on her property, but she has also initiated checks around her property to note wildlife tracks. This allowed her to report the presence of wildcat tracks, which further reassures her and our team about the effectiveness of the mitigation strategies on her farm. Agnis thought it important to apprise our team of the worth of the time invested in maintaining her corral. She is now happy to report seeing other types of wildlife around her farm and it has made her feel a sense of stewardship to protect these wildlife species.

Ya’axché values these interactions with community farmers and we use each account to update our strategies. Our interview with Agnis and other farmers not only allowed us to see the value of investing in these mitigation strategies, but also to follow up with farmers and remind them of simple maintenance actions that can help improve their farm management effectiveness, such as keeping grass chopped, plan their breeding season, bring their cattle in at night especially the calves and repairing fences and corrals.

Our anticipated efforts involve identifying and equipping two new farms with conflict mitigation strategies. These two farms are in the village of Crique Sarco, and will join the seven other “jaguar friendly” farms that Ya’axché works with. In addition to this, we will be planning an upcoming workshop with our partners from the Toledo Livestock Association, the Belize Forest Department and the Ministry of Agriculture. This workshop will provide further information for these farmers on the coexistence of farmers and jaguars in Belize, including the work we are currently doing to provide mitigation options for farmers.

Since July, we have also responded to two separate reports of jaguar conflict. One of these in San Antonio village, and one in Cattle Landing village. We have assessed both these farms and placed camera traps in the area to monitor the presence of jaguars to provide information on how we can best address the situation and provide mitigation options. In addition, we have provided information of wildcat track identification so that farmers are better able to distinguish the wildcat species that visit their farms.

Ya’axché Conservation Trust extends a heartfelt thank you to each donor who has supported the efforts of our human jaguar conflict program. Your kind donations have made the coexistence of farmers and jaguars a tangible reality in rural Toledo, Belize. We still have more funds to raise, kindly share our fundraising campaign.

Improved fencing on Agnis' farm
Improved fencing on Agnis' farm
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Organization Information

Ya'axche Conservation Trust

Location: Punta Gorda, Toledo District - Belize
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Yaaxche?lang=en
Project Leader:
Gliselle Marin
Punta Gorda, Belize

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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