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For Immediate Release, January 17, 2008

Contacts:

Michael Robinson, Center for Biological Diversity, (575) 313-7017
Dr. Joe Cook, Professor of Biology, University of New Mexico, Board Member of the American Society of Mammalogists, (505) 277-1358

Bush Administration Abandons Recovery of Jaguar,
Ignores Threat of Global Warming and Historic U.S. Commitment to
International Conservation Efforts

SILVER CITY, N.M.— The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that it will not prepare a recovery plan for the endangered jaguar and will not attempt to recover the species in the United States or throughout its range in North and South America. The decision was signed by Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall on January 7, 2008.

The decision is an attempt to moot an active lawsuit by the Center for Biological Diversity seeking a recovery plan and designation of protected critical habitat areas for the New World’s largest cat. The decision also seeks to circumvent the Endangered Species Act from slowing Bush administration plans to build thousands of miles of wall on the U.S.-Mexico border without environmental review. The wall will short-circuit current efforts by jaguars to recolonize the United States.

In June 2007, more than 500 members of the American Society of Mammalogists met in Albuquerque and unanimously passed a resolution calling on the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan for the jaguar. The resolution concluded that “Habitats for the jaguar in the United States, including Arizona and New Mexico, are vital to the long-term resilience and survival of the species, especially in response to ongoing climate change.”

Dr. Joe Cook, professor of biology at the University of New Mexico and board member of the American Society of Mammalogists, pointed out that historically, the United States has taken a leadership role in international conservation: “Unfortunately, this decision is consistent with an abdication of leadership in the field of conservation of wildlife over the past seven years.”

“This is a jaguar death sentence,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Fish and Wildlife Service decision invoked a 2004 policy stating that recovery plans need not be prepared for species whose “historic and current ranges occur entirely under the jurisdiction of other countries.” The jaguar, however, historically ranged from Monterey Bay, California, to the Appalachian Mountains, and currently occurs in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

“The decision violates the Endangered Species Act, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service policy, and common sense,” said Robinson. “The jaguar is clearly a U.S. species.”

The decision also asserts that “actions taken within the United States are likely to benefit a small number of individual jaguars peripheral to the species, with little potential to affect recovery of the species as a whole” and that conservation plans outside the United States are adequate to recover the species.

“If this same logic had applied previously, there would never have been a recovery plan written that resulted in reintroduction of gray wolves to the Yellowstone National Park or the Southwest,” said Robinson. The rationale is also contradicted by the decision’s own admission that conservation plans outside the United States “have thus far fallen short in stemming the decline of the jaguar.”

Directly contradicting the assertion that a recovery plan can not facilitate conservation of an international species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an international recovery plan for the whooping crane in March 2007.

Robinson added: “If the U.S. can work across borders to develop an international recovery plan for the whooping crane, why can’t it do so for the jaguar? Perhaps its because the Bush administration is dead set on walling off the U.S.-Mexico border.”

“If the U.S. cannot make a genuine effort to conserve the jaguar within our borders than how can we ask developing countries to step up to the plate to support this vital part of their fauna?” asked Dr. Cook.

Background

The jaguar is the largest New World cat. Historically, it occurred from the southern United States through Mexico and Central America to South America. It roamed the southern United States from Monterey Bay, California through the Appalachian Mountains and was exterminated by the same federal predator extermination program that wiped out wolves in the western United States, along with persecution by the livestock industry and habitat loss.

The jaguar was listed as an endangered species throughout its range in 1997, requiring that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat. Because the agency did neither, the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit. The lawsuit is active at this time.

Four jaguars, all presumed to be male and migrants from Mexico, have been photographed in southern Arizona and New Mexico since 1996. One of them, identifiable by the unique pattern of rosettes on his fur, has been photographed multiple times over a period extending for more than 10 years in the United States. Many other unconfirmed accounts of jaguars have also been reported.

The last female jaguar confirmed in the United States was shot by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predator control agent in the Apache National Forest (where Mexican gray wolves have since been reintroduced) in 1963.

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