Sunday, March 08, 2009

Path of the Jaguar

Alan Rabinowitz envisions a different ending to the story. He imagines that the young jaguar, when he leaves his birthplace, will pass unseen by humans through a near-continuous corridor of sheltering vegetation. Within a couple of days he'll find a small tract of forest harboring enough prey for him to stop and rest a day or two before resuming his trek. Eventually he'll reach a national park or wildlife preserve where he'll find a home, room to roam, plenty of prey, females looking for a mate. Rabinowitz is the world's leading jaguar expert, and he has begun to realize his dream of creating a vast network of interconnected corridors and refuges extending from the U.S.-Mexico border into South America. It is known as Paseo del Jaguar—Path of the Jaguar. Rabinowitz considers such a network the best hope for keeping this great New World cat from joining lions and tigers on the endangered species list. In the 1990s, having censused jaguars across their range, Rabinowitz and other specialists identified dozens of what they called jaguar conservation units (JCUs): large areas with perhaps 50 jaguars, where the local population was either stable or increasing. At the heart of most of the JCUs were existing parks or other protected areas, which Rabinowitz hoped to expand and secure with surrounding buffer zones. "I felt that the best thing we could hope to do was to lock up these great populations in these fragmented areas," he said. Within a few years, though, the new science of DNA fingerprinting—studying genetic material to determine family and species relationships—revealed an amazing fact: The jaguar is the only large, wide-ranging carnivore in the world with no subspecies. Simply put, this means that for millennia jaguars have been mingling their genes throughout their entire range, so that individuals in northern Mexico are identical to those in southern Brazil. For that to be true, some of the cats must wander regularly and widely between populations. Rabinowitz hopes to convince national governments throughout the jaguar's range to maintain this web of habitat through enlightened land-use planning, such as choosing noncritical areas for major developments and road construction. Diana Hadley of the Arizona-based Northern Jaguar Project works to protect the northernmost jaguar population in Mexico, with the long-term goal of seeing the species return to the United States. Hadley said the project and its Mexican partners "fully support" Paseo del Jaguar...National Geographic

1 comment:

Wilson said...

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