It is an unfortunate fact that even today jaguars face animosity from local communities across the entirety of their home range – whether from the superstition´s of the indigenous people who believe that jaguars are creatures of immense power to be feared or from cattle owners who believe their livestock to be under threat. Modern technologies such as firearms and poisons have empowered local communities to fight back against the jaguars that they see as damaging their livelihoods and the jaguar-human conflict now poses the biggest threat to their declining population.
GVI Jalova´s neighbour, Armando, has a small herd of around 30 cattle which contribute equally to his income as does the coconut plantation in which they graze. In the past six months, four of his calves have been taken by jaguars - an unusually large amount compared to the two calves taken over the previous five years. Staff at GVI Jalova believe that the historically low predation rate could be due to the fact that the typical culprits of livestock predation, i.e. old and injured jaguars, would be unable to compete in such a small but highly desirable area such as Tortuguero National Park. The reason for the sudden increase this past year is as yet unclear but it is commonly thought amongst the staff that it may be the work of two local cubs that have recently started venturing out independently from their mother - calves being the easiest prey available outside of turtle season.
After hearing of Armando´s problems, base manager Mariliana contacted Roberto Salom-Perez, Panthera’s Mesoamerica Jaguar Program Coordinator in Costa Rica, to ask for advice. Before staff at Jalova knew it a date was fixed for a visit from Rafael Hoogesteijn, Panthera´s Head of Human-Jaguar Conflict who works closely with jaguars in the Pantanal, Daniel Corrales-Gutiérrez, Project Manager of the Human-Jaguar Conflict in Costa Rica and four other Panthera representatives from all over the Americas – Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Venezuela and USA.
The visitors were welcomed to GVI´s research station within Tortuguero National Park. Staff member Frank explained GVI´s aims and objectives, which include helping initiatives such as Panthera achieve their goals, and gave an overview of the Jaguar Project and the other projects run at the station. They were then taken out into the field to admire the beautiful and diverse wildlife within the park whilst swapping stories with staff of life working in conservation. They were especially interested in the abundance of jaguar tracks clearly visible along the beach.
Staff members Frank and Marcelle accompanied the Panthera visitors to Armando´s house and made the introductions. Daniel Corrales led the discussion by describing more about himself and Panthera. It was an interesting process for GVI Staff seeing it firsthand. Daniel asked Armando questions about what animals and tracks he had seen in the area then asked him to point at pictures of them to establish which cats and natural prey species were in the area. He also asked about any animals he had seen in the past which he no longer sees. Other questions about how dependant he is upon his cattle, how he controls where they go during the day and at night and details about the circumstances in which the calves had been taken were asked to help clarify how Panthera could help resolve Armando´s problem.
After the discussion and viewing the land firsthand, the group from Panthera decided the best solution was to construct an electric fence around the cattle enclosure and made plans to return to help implement this solution, provided they could get the permit to do so inside the National Park. Daniel also gave Armando advice on farming techniques to help him improve productivity and the health of his cattle which helped create trust and respect between a man whose livelihood is being put at risk by jaguars and the conservation group trying to preserve them.
The visit gave us an opportunity to directly impact the local community by helping Armando, who helps us so much and without whom we could not be here. Furthmore, Daniel and Rafael have asked GVI to put them into contact with any other cattle owners in the area that they may be able to assist. The visit also provided a great opportunity for Panthera to see our work out in the field and to learn more about GVI and equally for staff at Jalova to learn more about our partner organisation and their work around the world.
Lastly, a potential future partnership between GVI and Panthera in the Pantanal was greeted with enthusiasm and excitement from both sides and will be discussed further on future visits!
Thank you for continuing to support this project!
Kat Cutler and Frank Spooner,
Panthera Project Field Staff