For Immediate Release, February 19, 2009
Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017
Jaguar in Arizona Outfitted With Radio Collar; Endangered Jaguars
Will Still Be Lost Without Critical Habitat and a Recovery Plan
TUCSON, Ariz.— On February 18, a jaguar was captured in a snare south of Tucson, Arizona, outfitted with a radio collar by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, and released on site.
The GPS radio collar will provide the first real-time information on jaguar movements and hour-by-hour habitat use in the United States. However, under current policy this valuable information will not help jaguars because the Bush administration refused to protect jaguar habitat and refused to plan for recovery of this endangered species – leading to an ongoing Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit.
The Center’s suit, filed in April 2008 and due to be argued before a federal judge in Tucson on March 23, seeks to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for the jaguar. Recovery plans are scientific roadmaps to how to ensure a species survives and is no longer in danger of extinction. Critical habitat designation delineates the areas needed for recovery.
Without these two measures, jaguars will disappear from the United States – particularly given the ongoing construction of a border wall separating the few jaguars in the United States from those in Mexico.
The radio-collared animal, a male dubbed “Macho B,” has been photographed repeatedly in southern Arizona -- first by a mountain-lion hunter who treed him in 1996 and subsequently by motion-operated cameras. He is one of only four jaguars known in the wild in the United States in recent years. (Another jaguar photographed alive in the wild in the United States, “Macho A,” is believed to have been killed.)
“‘Macho and other jaguars need President Obama to tear down the border wall and authorize a recovery plan and critical habitat protection,” said Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.
“That way Macho may find a mate, and future generations of jaguars will still find homes in our forests and deserts.”
The jaguar, Panthera onca, is the largest cat native to North America, and once roamed from California to the Appalachians. Jaguars were killed off for their spotted pelts and out of fear of predation on livestock.
The last known female jaguar in the United States was killed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “predator control” program in 1963 in eastern Arizona, and all known U.S. jaguars since then are believed to have originated in Mexico.
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.”
In opposing jaguar recovery, the Bush administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service cited “the existing voluntary approach” of an interagency Jaguar Conservation Team led by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish. But the team, sometimes referred to as the “Jaguar Conversation Team,” has not followed through on its 1997 pledge to “coordinate protection of jaguar habitat” and has not even taken a stand against the ongoing construction of the border wall near where Macho B roams. The wall divides jaguars in the United States from those in Mexico.
The Endangered Species Act is intended to recover species and conserve their ecosystems. The presence of jaguars in the Southwest contributed to the evolution of alertness in deer and the tendency of the pig-like javelina to travel in herds for protection. Because jaguars roam widely, protection for their habitat can also protect the habitats for many other species — an example of the link between conservation of species and their habitats that is intended by the Act.
The jaguar was listed as an endangered species south of the border in 1972 but was not afforded protection in the United States until July 1997, which only occurred as a result of a previous Center for Biological Diversity lawsuit against the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The jaguar is the largest New World cat. It historically occurred from the southern United States through Mexico and Central America to South America. In the United States it once roamed the southern states from Monterey Bay, California through the Appalachian Mountains. It 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 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.
When the jaguar was listed as an endangered species throughout its range in 1997, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was then required to develop a recovery plan and designate critical habitat for it.