Jaguars flourished in the American southwest for hundreds if not thousands of years before Europeans stepped foot in the area. Where there was once an abundance of these predatory big cats, now remain less than 50. A group of Ecologists and conservationists have proposed reintroducing these majestic creatures back into their natural habitat to preserve this endangered species. But what are the benefits and the costs of such an endeavor? Read ahead to find out.
What is Happening?
Jaguars once inhabited much of the southwest United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, stretching through Texas into the Latin American countries. As time progressed and the area became more populous, the significant cat population soon became viewed as a threat.
In the 1930s, when the region was in its “wild west” era, farming and rural lifestyles were the norm, and the government began a program to eliminate jaguars. They introduced sponsored poison and trap campaigns to eliminate the roaming predator.
By the 1960’s they had all but wiped out the felines from the area. Since then, there have been sightings of random jaguars here and there but not any breeding pairs. The extermination of the animals in the southwest has now led to them being on the endangered species list.
A group of ecologists has now brought forward a proposal to reintroduce these big cats back into the southwest to bulk up the population and get this species off the endangered list.
What Good Can Come Out of This Program?
The most significant benefit of this program is the conservation of the jaguar itself. As the world continues to industrialize, the habitat of these animals continues to shrink. Humans owe it to these creatures to give them back the land that has been swept out from under them.
The southwest is a perfect place to help them boost their numbers to become unendangered again. For one, the cats were here before, so we know that they will be able to flourish in the region. The area proposed for this undertaking is a two million square mile uninhabited area of the Gila National Forest.
The area has an abundance of prey resources, so the animals would not need to investigate civilization for food. This was a top-tier argument against the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, a similarly hot topic.
The conservation groups' guidelines outlined the idea of this area becoming a habitat for them. They would like to introduce up to 100-150 jaguars at most, and the general population wouldn't even know they were there as this section of the National Forest is uninhabited by humans.
The research is there, the jaguar is endangered and needs a new habitat, and they wouldn't bother humans, so what could go wrong trying to save a dying species?
What Problems Could Occur?
While there are many benefits to helping save the species, there are locals who live in the area, still trying to determine if it's a good idea, and their views are reasonable.
The most considerable pushback for this conservation attempt is from the local ranchers. The first thought that would come to mind is that the cats would use their livestock as easy prey. However, ranchers' livestock aren't the only animals at risk, as many believe that if reintroduced, jaguars would also decimate the wildlife population.
Another noteworthy flaw in the idea comes from the critical habitat designation for the species. This designation could begin to start limiting the seizure of land from farm owners to protect the jaguar. Essentially, this habitat would be too unique for the progression of the cat species, limiting what ranchers could do on their land.
As an endangered species, it would be illegal to kill the jaguar. Farmers may have trouble protecting their livestock.
The final and probably the most inconvenient aspect for ranchers would be how the Endangered Species Act would limit a rancher's ability to expand and build on their land. Under the act, landowners would have to jump through various government hoops to get permits to progress on any developments from irrigation ditches to barns. Ranchers in the area would have to go through government programs before breaking ground.
Why is it Important?
The most crucial argument for why this reintroduction should occur is simple; The Jaguar was in the area first; we killed off their population and landed them on the endangered list. The preservation of any endangered animal is paramount.
The local ranchers must protect their families and businesses at all costs. The logistics of doing so, however, are more complex. Reintroducing a predatory animal in the area is counterproductive.
If these two opposing groups could agree on how this could work, this program would be a massive stepping stone for the jaguar population in the southwest and around the world. The area has the potential to become a sanctuary for these big cats.
The arguments for both sides are viable, and regardless of which side of the fence you stand on, one thing is certain; we committed genocide on this species of animal in the region, and we owe it to them to give back.