Jaguar and Puma Conservation in the South American Rainforest

The jaguar is the largest big cat in the western hemisphere and during the last Ice age they roamed across most of North America and deep into South America and everywhere in between. Since the early 20th century, jaguars are no longer present in North America and populations have decreased by almost half in South America.
The puma was expelled from the east coast of northern American within 200 years of colonists entering the land and are now no longer found in North America at all. In other parts of the world, such as Canada, pumas are listed as ‘endangered’. Jaguars are in fact, listed as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Pumas, also known as mountain lions and cougars, are not endangered as a whole, yet, but in Brazil and Peru specifically, they are listed as ‘near threatened’.
The loss of the rainforest, their natural habitat in South America, and human interactions, such as, pet trade, fur trade, and cattle ranchers, are the leading causes to the decrease of jaguar and puma populations.
It can be hard to exactly calculate these animals’ populations because many people who kill these animals are not happy to openly admit because it is either illegal where they are or due to the negative stigma associated with doing so.
If these animals do continue on the path they have been on, they, like many others of the feline species, they will eventually become extinct. These big cats are keystone species and the removal of them from the food web at large will affect every other species, causing over population in primary consumers and producers, throwing off the natural food chain that exists in this world.
Deforestation occurs every day in the South American Amazonia homelands of jaguars and pumas. The loss of their natural habitat leads to either these animals assimilating to live closer together which can lead to serious conflict between the large cats or they venture onto cattle ranchers land. They are independent creatures who live and hunt alone and need at minimum a 30 square mile radius to themselves. Living closer to one another doesn’t allow these animals to properly mate or hunt, leading them to their own downfall. On the other hand, they try to stay separated by remaining where they are, and feed on the cattle owned by cattle ranchers. Ranchers do not like to lose cattle because that coincidently means loss of profits and they are also scared of these animals when they encounter them so they tend to shoot these animals for either reason.
Humans also hunt, trap, and kill these animals for either pet trade or for their coats. Informing people as to what these animals go through for them to have a real fur coat would make more people think twice before purchasing one. There is also a lucrative business in trading and keeping these animals as pets. These animals are not in their natural environment and this is not healthy for them since many pet owners either do not know how to properly handle and keep them or they mistreat them.
The key to preserving these animals is to protect not only the animals themselves from the human race but to also preserve their natural habitat, the Amazonian rainforest, from deforestation. To do this we have to start directly with the people who are most at risk from running into and having direct impacts upon their land and work outwards. Providing knowledge of future impacts, such as, their children never having the ability to see these animals in real life is essential in connecting the importance to the people. What kind of world would it be without this keystone species? We have to remember that these lands were home to these animals long before humans ever came around.

2 thoughts on “Jaguar and Puma Conservation in the South American Rainforest

  1. Timothy Moore

    This is fascinating. I had read an article regarding this issue not too long ago but I had only skimmed it. The term “keystone species ” in particular was used in the article that I saw. While reading this I related this situation to chaos theory. Chaos theory being the butterfly effect, the theory that a small event could be the cause of a much larger event. I find it hard to imagine that if a single species went extinct then the whole of the world’s species would topple like dominos. I myself have a hard time imagining it, however when I think about this as if the chaos theory was applied here I could see it happening. That’s not to say that the issue of the jaguars state of existence is a small one in any way, though in the grands scheme of the worlds problems it’s easy to lose sight of problems. This problem is one that has been lost and must be brought to the attention of humanity. To the average Joe, this “small” issue is meaningless for them to go about their daily life. Though I feel that if I was to use chaos theory to explain the situation to the average Joe, they might listen easier.

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  2. Ben Follett

    Hi Hannah,

    This was a very interesting read! Hopefully things get resolved in the rainforest soon! This topic is fascinating but it cripples me on the inside reading about it. It’s horrible knowing that so many animal species are going extinct so the human society can run efficiently. There were two parts of your paper summary where I found myself astonished. First, I never took into consideration the snowball effect that occurs from deforestation. The fact that deforestation can be correlated to cattle ranchers losing cattle due to Puma’s lost their homes amazed me. Secondly, I was amazed to find that people have Puma’s as pets. I watched a video the other day of people from United Arab Emirates, specifically, Dubai, who had who has exotic felines as pets, but I figured it was all staged, apparently not. When reading through your article I couldn’t help but to connect this to an article I read the other week about the last male white rhino in South Africa. He goes by Sudan, and armed guards protect him twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week from poachers. I’m don’t know if it’s my media feed but recently I feel I have been seeing more articles discussing endangered species and its not cool! To conclude, I agree with you one hundred percent when you say the best way to start preserving the rainforest is to start educating the people directly impacted. Great job!

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