Endangered Brazil jaguars adapting to changing agricultural landscape

World Today

One of the most iconic, beautiful, mammals in the Americas is the jaguar. It is also extremely rare. Just 15,000 are left in the wild, and most are in Brazil. CCTV America’s Stephen Gibbs traveled to the Brazilian state of Goias, where he made some unexpected discoveries about how these solitary hunters are adapting to a changing environment.

Endangered Brazil jaguars adapting to changing agricultural landscape

One of the most iconic, beautiful, mammals in the Americas is the jaguar. It is also extremely rare. Just 15,000 are left in the wild, and most are in Brazil. CCTV America's Stephen Gibbs traveled to the Brazilian state of Goias, where he made some unexpected discoveries about how these solitary hunters are adapting to a changing environment.

Goias is the agricultural heartland of Brazil, including mile-upon-mile of sugar cane, soya, and little else. The farms are hugely valuable and sell for hundreds of millions of dollars.

As the president of Jaguar Conservation Fund, Leandro Silveirao,is neither a farmer nor a millionaire, but the last 23 years, he has chosen to live in this isolated spot because it is one of the best places to observe the most powerful cat in the world.

Barely ever seen in the wild, these formidable hunters once roamed throughout the Americas. Now, perhaps as few as 15,000 exist.

Silveirao life’s work has been to try to understand where these usually solitary big cats live, hunt, and breed. Some of the cats are also tranquilized and tracked, using GPS transmitters, fitted to special collars.

Silveirao’s research has led him to some unexpected conclusions about the sustainability of this species. He believes that the big cats are adapting successfully to the changing landscape around them.

If an orphan jaguar cub is discovered anywhere in the country, it is likely to be brought to Silveirao’s home.

“The problem of rehabilitating and releasing cats is that when you hand raise them, and then release them, they don’t fear people,” he said.

After more than two decades of research, Silveirao and his team have come to the perhaps a surprising conclusion that endangered animals and agriculture can co-exist, as long as the situation is very carefully managed.

According to Brazilian law, 20 percent of developed agricultural land must be set aside to help protect the local wildlife. Highly automated crop farming, rather than cattle farming, has also led to a relatively benign environment here for the big cats.

Silveirao has discovered that some of his tagged cats spend far more time outside a national park that has been preserved for them than inside it.

The sustainable future of the wild jaguar is not secure, but this rare big cat’s proven ability to adapt to its surroundings does offer some hope.