Set up by the non-profit NGO organisation, JCF (Jaguar Conservation Fund), the Araguaia Jaguar Corridor Project is an ambitious initiative designed to work as part of a holistic conservation plan to ensure the survival of the big cat, its habitat and that of its prey species. |
Since 2002, the JCF has implemented numerous education, research and wildlife corridor programmes throughout Brazil's five biomes. The country is home to the densest population of the species in South and Central America, which is the reason for its popularity as a prime Jaguar watching destination.
The Mighty Araguaia River
The Araguaia River (within the Cerrado biome) is one of Brazil's major rivers, supporting an abundance of wildlife, including more than 700 species of birds, 300 species of fish and a host of thriving and endangered mammals. In fact, its name comes from the ancient Tupi language, meaning "river of red macaws".
The Corridor Project
The purpose of this important JCF project, which was established in 2008, was to counter the effects of the big cat's loss of habitat and the consequent fragmentation of the populations in this region. Habitat fragmentation – due to expanding agricultural practices - is one of the most prevalent threats to the big cat, resulting in the isolation of small, non-viable populations. The project aims to create a corridor through which the animal can pass safely, connecting the existing populations along the river.
Unlike the Amazon Basin, the majority of the Cerrado biome has been taken over by human activity, with just 1.6% of the region coming under conservation protection. Because of this, populations of the big cat have declined at an alarming rate and have become increasingly isolated.
The source of the 2000km Araguaia River is very close to the Emas National Park, which is renowned as a protected refuge for the big cats – one of the few in Cerrado. The JCF identified the region along the river as the ideal place to establish a corridor to link a safe passage between Emas and other surviving populations. (Jaguar watching experts have documented the presence of the big cat in pockets along virtually the entire length of the river.)
Aims of the Project
The corridor project (part of the overarching Araguaia River Biodiversity Corridor Project) has been collating data using scat (faeces) detector dogs, interviews with local residents and hi-tech camera traps in order to document the species' current distribution. Future initiatives will see GPS tracking devices attached to the big cats to gather data regarding their individual home ranges and the distance they roam, as well as undertaking further research into the human/big cat conflict across the critical landscape of the corridor.
The long-term research and data gathered will be used to create the vital corridor for the big cat, to ensure its ongoing survival throughout the central regions of Brazil.
Eco-tourism, in the form of dedicated Jaguar watching tours, is an important factor in the issue of raising the big cat's profile and creating global awareness of its near-threatened conservation status. However, its preservation also depends on organisations like JCF establishing initiatives "on the ground" in the species' geographical ranges throughout South and Central America.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar watching itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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