ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. – A team of wildlife officials in the United States and Mexico on Monday released details of a proposal for a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar, in which criticism from environmental groups which say that more needs to be done to restore a breeding population of the elusive cats north of the border.
While jaguars are found in 19 countries stretching from the american Southwest to South America, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Monday that the focus is on the efforts in the north of Mexico and the USA.
As part of the proposal, scientists are not prescribing jaguar reintroductions in the USA, They are focused instead on efforts to support habitat, eliminate poaching, and improve the social acceptance of the animal to accommodate jaguars spread in the US, so they can survive and multiply.
Federal officials are seeking comments on the proposal and any additional information that may help in shaping a final version of the plan.
“We recognize the important challenges of the recovery planning for an elusive species with a wide, international reach,” Steve Spangle, the agency field supervisor in Arizona, said in a statement.
Federal officials acknowledged it could take at least a half-century for the jaguars to have viable, self-sustainable populations in some areas of their historic range.
Earlier this month, an image that is included in a southern Arizona mountain range shows what is believed to be the second wild jaguar spotted in the U.S. in recent years. A preliminary analysis suggested the cat was new to the area and not “El Jefe,” a jaguar captured on video in a nearby mountain range last year.
Until now, El Jefe (the Boss in Spanish) and was considered as the only jaguar in the USA, although he has not been seen in more than a year.
Since 1996, seven jaguars have been documented in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Federal officials say that these jaguars are believed to have originated from a breeding population centered at about 130 km south of the US border, in the Mexican state of Sonora.
Arizona, New Mexico and other parts of the southwest of the U.S. were home to jaguars for loss of habitat and predator control programs aimed at protecting livestock eliminated them over the last 150 years.
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 set aside nearly 1,200 square miles along the border as habitat essential for the conservation of the jaguar.
That spurred a lawsuit by the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association and New Mexico Federal Countries of the Council. The groups of farmers and agricultural interests argued that the decision was unlawful, arbitrary and capricious. That suit is ongoing.
Again, it was a lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, which have pushed for jaguar protections, which resulted in the drafting of the recovery plan. The groups criticized the plan unveiled Monday are not doing enough.
“The draft plan rules from translocating jaguars in the united states, and the area allocated for the recovery is too small, that only a fraction of the big cat’s historic range. This one-two punch makes jaguar recovery in the U.S. probably not,” said Rob Peters, a biologist with the Defenders of the Animals.
Michael Robinson with the Center for Biological Diversity suggested that the proposal was more of an extinction plan for the cats, because it focused “too low to make a difference in saving the jaguar.”
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service said it would continue to promote recovery in the range, but that the proposal focuses on the north of Mexico and the Southwest of america, because that is where the agency has the most authority, and existing relations of the state and the Mexican agencies, conservation groups, universities and others.
Mexico is busy with the execution of his own jaguar recovery plan, and U.S. officials say they plan to coordinate the efforts.