It is no surprise the jaguar, a powerhouse of the big cats, was chosen through a fan contest as our own NFL team’s mascot in 1991. Today the jaguar is a part of the Jacksonville identity. But we are not alone; the jaguar is an iconic symbol of the wild for South America and Mexico, celebrated as a symbol of power.
Like all traits of this magnificent creature, their eye structure makes them perfectly suited for spotting prey in the dark and in the daylight. As the largest cat in the Americas, they are versatile and adaptable; being skilled runners, swimmers, and climbers, and ranging in 18 different countries in South America, from Mexico to Argentina.
In the Rupununi Region of Guyana, a small country south of Venezuela, people and jaguars share space and resources. While being natural skilled hunters of ungulates (any hoof stock), the expansion of cattle ranching has created conflict between people and jaguars. As you may imagine, cattle are an attractive, large, less formidable prey for the jaguar than any smaller native prey in the region. While the loss of a few cattle from jaguar depredation by the large-scale ranching industry is well tolerated, for the indigenous communities, whose livelihood increasingly depends on cattle, can be a serious loss. The loss of cattle by jaguar depredation can directly impact community access to daily necessary resources, resulting in sometimes harsh responses, that increase the endangerment of the jaguar.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a partner of the Rupununi Wildlife Research Unit, a critical participant in the effort of better understanding interactions between livestock and jaguars to create local solutions that mitigate human-to-jaguar conflict. Their organization, primarily operated by local Guyanese staff and Dr. Matt Hallett from the University of Florida’s Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department, is working alongside other partners on different approaches. They are studying cattle behavior as well as jaguar behavior to better understand space overlap between the two species and capture the existing sources of conflict. They are also engaging livestock producers to understand attitudes and perceptions of conflict surrounding this interaction and management strategies. In collaboration with villages, private ranches, regional groups, government agencies and others, they hope to develop local solutions to reduce this conflict and produce new management tactics and partnerships that benefit people and jaguars.