Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Jaguars, Ranchers, Loggers and Bureaucrats

Last summer, Mexican rancher Abner Rios noticed a curious thing. Cows that were ready to give birth wandered off only to come back from pasture alone. “We began to notice that pregnant cattle were not returning with calves,” Rios told FNS. Months later, Rios estimated he had lost ten calves while his neighbors in the Costa Grande region of southern Guerrero state counted many others missing. A prime suspect in the mystery: Panthera onca, the majestic jaguar of Mesoamerican lore and legend. Also a veterinarian by trade, Rios has seen the elusive cat, which is classified as an endangered and protected species in Mexico. He first spotted a large black specimen in the wild more than a decade ago. “We thought they were extinct, and I thought it would be the last one I saw, but there would be one more,” Rios said, adding that he recently observed what appeared to be a young jaguar. Together with other rural residents, Rios and his sister Yadira reached out to authorities who might trap and remove any animal with a taste for beef. That’s when the frustration began, according to the siblings. Reconstructing a bureaucratic maze, Yadira Rios described a ping-pong like journey that had her bouncing between local, state and federal environmental offices, with one official disclaiming authority over the matter and directing her to the next one who would tell a similar story. “There are dozens of institutions dedicated to environmental protection,” Rios said. “How is it that not one of them acts?” By the end of last year, the Costa Grande ranchers were restive. In a New Year’s Eve letter sent to the federal Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) and the Federal Attorney General for Environmental Protection (Profepa), residents reiterated their wish to have a cattle-killing jaguar safely removed but warned that continued governmental inaction could lead to a less desirable solution.

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