Jaguars in Argentine Chaco on verge of local extinction

The Chaco is considered home to the largest Argentine population of jaguars, but the inaccessibility of the region has meant that until recently very little was known about the exact status of the population here.

To address this lack of knowledge, biologists have undertaken a major study of jaguar range and abundance, recently published in Fauna and Flora International’s journal, Oryx.

The results of the study point to a striking conclusion: the jaguar population in the Argentine Chaco is in crisis, and at risk of imminent local extinction.

A vast wilderness of dry forest, scrubland and plains, the Gran Chaco is the second largest forest region in the Americas. It encompasses parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Paraguay, and is a hot, inhospitable and sparsely populated region.

Jaguars inhabit three regions in Argentina, and the Chaco population is important to maintain population connectivity not only within Argentina, but also between populations in Bolivia and Paraguay.

The conversion of jaguar habitat to cattle ranching and the persecution of jaguars themselves are the main drivers of this population decline. The number of hunted jaguars reported in interviews can be used as an indicator of jaguar abundance, and the study found that this has dropped ten-fold over the last decade.

Rather than indicating a change in hunting practice, or in the perception of jaguars as a threat to livestock and people, this reflects the rate at which local people now come into contact with jaguars. Although the overall range size has not decreased, the dramatic drop in abundance will spur conservation action.

The jaguar’s decline in the Chaco is indicative of wider population declines affecting other species, such as the giant armadillo (Priodontes maximus), white-lipped peccary (Tayassu pecari), the endemic Chacoan peccary (Chacoan wagneri), and puma (Puma concolor). Therefore, action taken to benefit the jaguar will also benefit many other species.

Source: Claire Salisbury | Mongabay