A group of conservationists working in an area of the Brazilian Pantanal made a grizzly discovery when tracking a jaguar known to them as Sandro. The tracking collar placed on Sandro a year earlier had stopped moving for several weeks so they knew something was wrong but didn’t expect what they found.
The GPS collar was tracked across one of many hundreds of cattle ranches in the region. The conservationists found something unexpected near where the last registered movements were recorded. They discovered the body of a different jaguar, lying dead in the grass, and just over a hundred feet further on was Sandro’s body.
There was no sign of a fight, and no gunshot wounds. Both animals were healthy, but yet both had died within a short time period in the same area.
The researchers called in the police and the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), as this was highly suspicious. Along with the dead jaguars they discovered a cow carcass within 350 feet of the two jaguars, and within a short distance were 17 other dead animals: 14 vultures, two carcara raptors, and a fox.
From tracking one jaguar, they had stumbled across the illegal poisoning and death of multiple animals.
Retaliation for killing cattle
It is believed that ranchers, frustrated by jaguars killing their livestock, use pesticides to kill the jaguars. If a jaguar attacks an animal, and leaves some of the carcass, they poison it in the hope the jaguar would return to continue eating. However, before now authorities had not been able to investigate this suspicion.
Brazil is thought to be home to about half of the 170,000 jaguars still left in the wild. With a population of roughly 2,000, the Pantanal area of Brazil has one of the highest densities of jaguars in the world.
Jaguars are listed on the IUCN’s Red List as near threatened, with a decreasing population. Increasing deforestation for cattle ranching has left jaguars with lost or fragmented habitats and isolated populations, making it difficult for them to breed. A smaller range means the cats have less access to prey, leaving them no choice but to turn to livestock to survive. And when they do, the ranchers obviously retaliate.
The area where Sandro roamed used to be a tourist hotspot for nature lovers wanting to see a jaguar in the wild. However the land has been turned over to farmland. Jaguars used to be regularly spotted, but now they are much rarer in this region.
Believed to be poisoning
An analysis of tissue samples from the two dead jaguars is ongoing, although federal police say tests are unlikely to detect pesticides because of the level of decomposition of the animals when they were found. They are, however, sure the animals were poisoned.
This case has highlighted a huge issue. The vast size of the ranches in the area and the isolation of many of them means it is difficult for authorities to police any illegal activity. Only because Sandro was tracked did they discover the poisoning in question. One benefit of GPS collars on jaguars is that they could act as a deterrent against the ranchers carrying out a similar crime if the legal repercussions are made known.
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