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President Trump’s Border Wall Will Mean The Extinction Of Jaguars In The United States

Jaguar return in doubt

Wildlife experts and biologists believe that one-day jaguars could make a return to the United States if the country leaves a trail open for females to follow males that have been spotted in the country. There have been seven confirmed male jaguars spotted in the US since 1996. Five of those males ventured into Southern Arizona and two were seen in South-Western New Mexico. Jaguars have effectively been extinct in both places for decades.

Hopes have been raised for a return of the big cat

Automated trail cameras captured footage of two new jaguars in Arizona since last autumn and this has raised hopes amongst conservationists that the big cat may well return to the United States after being hunted nearly to extinction. Unfortunately, politics is throwing a spanner into the works, the jaguar’s fate will largely depend on whether US President Donald Trump fulfils his pledge to build a border wall. An impenetrable wall would mean no male or female jaguar would be able to cross into the United States and this would all but mean extinction for the species in the US.

Status of jaguars in Mexico is also uncertain

The jaguar faces other threats as well. In Mexico for example the big cat is threatened by many of the same things its US ancestors faced almost a century ago. Ranchers see the big cat as a predator that preys on their livestock. The development of roads and settlements causes habitat loss and fragmentation. As humans alter the environment, the food chain weakens. Before the jaguar can return to the United States it will first have to survive South of the border so conservationists are concentrating their efforts at protecting the species hunting ground. They are also seeking to educate ranchers so that they are more willing to share their land with the big cat. Since jaguars are apex predators, if the environment can sustain the species, the rest of the ecosystem will have a better chance at survival.

There is a conservation plan in place, but its future depends on Trump

Officially the United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists the jaguar as being an endangered species and has therefore created a species-recovery plan. The draft plan was proposed less than a month before Mr Trump assumed the office of President and focuses on ensuring that the country stays connected with Mexico. In the absence of a wall, there are at present at least seven wilderness crossings a female jaguar migrating from Mexico could take to meet with a mate. However, if a structure is built that is impervious to humans, it would also be impervious to jaguars as well, forcing them to turn back. This means building a wall would effectively seal the fate of the jaguar in the United States.

The wall means extinction

Conservationists rarely see things in such black and white terms when it comes to individual threats to wildlife. However, when it comes to the wall, there is broad consensus. People and jaguars use the same mountains to cross the border and if an unbroken barrier is built to stop people from crossing, it simply means extinction of the jaguar in the United States which is a real shame.

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Diver Saves Sea Turtle From Choking On Plastic Bag

Sea Turtle

A diver rescued a sea turtle from certain death after the turtle swallowed a plastic bag that ended up becoming lodged eight inches down the adult female’s throat. Saeed Rashid a lecturer at Bournemouth University was diving in the Red Sea when he came across a couple of Hawksbill turtles that were feeding on jellyfish. After snapping a number of pictures Mr Rashid realised that the female turtle was experiencing some distress and could not feed because the plastic bag was blocking her airway.

Turtle was starving

Mr Rashid decided to act and pulled the bag free from the sea turtle’s throat allowing the turtle who was clearly starving to feed once again. Mr Rashid said as he got close to the turtle and took a couple of pictures of her feeding he realised there was a plastic bag in her mouth and she was unable to eat. Instead she was simply nudging at the jellyfish and was obviously in distress. Mr Rashid has over 20 years of diving experience and has travelled all over the world but says there has been a massive increase in the amount of plastic pollution that is floating around the world’s oceans.

Plastic pollution is a major problem

Mr Rashid says he has tried to collect what he can but his efforts are meaningless in comparison to the sheer scale of plastic pollution in the ocean. He adds that when he realised the situation the turtle was in he put away his camera and attempted to pry the bag from its mouth. The bag was not only lodged in her mouth but extended all the way down her throat. This meant he had to hold onto the turtle’s shell and physically wrestle it from her. Fortunately, the turtle remained calm and allowed him to manhandle her. But once her mouth was open, the bag came out.

The turtles seemed grateful

The irony of the situation was, as soon as she was freed of the first bag, a second bag floated by that she also tried eat. Mr Rashid was quick to remove that bag from her sights and the turtle then went about her business eating jellyfish. After removing the plastic, Mr Rashid says both turtles followed him to the surface and began to play with him.

Public outrage

If you have been watching Blue Planet II then you will be acutely aware of the effect that plastic has on ocean life. In one scene of the series, a pilot whale was shown carrying her dead newborn around for days, simply unable to let it go. The episode sparked outrage amongst viewers and campaigners because the program suggested the calf had been poisoned by its mother’s polluted milk.

There are solutions to the problem

The Treasury is considering imposing a tax on plastic items such as throwaway trays for ready meals. Greenpeace has been aggressively campaigning against microbeads and it has paid off. The Government has promised to outlaw their use in cosmetics. The 5p tax on plastic bags has worked and resulted in a dramatic fall in their usage.

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Meet The Man Trying To Save The Jaguar

jaguar conservation

Ricardo Moreno is a cat loving conservationist who has focused his efforts on protecting South America’s biggest cat, the jaguar. The jaguar used to roam across a territory that spanned nearly nine million square kilometres. Its range extended from the Southern mountains of Argentina all the way up to the Grand Canyon in the United States. Unfortunately, after decades of hunting and habitat destruction, the jaguar’s range has dramatically shrunk and in the process its population has fallen by a whopping 40 per cent.

Threatened by extinction

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the jaguar is listed as being near threatened to extinction and in countries such as Uruguay and Ecuador, the species has all but disappeared. As deforestation takes place, jaguars can no longer rely on their traditional sources of prey and are forced to hunt livestock instead. This results in ranchers and landowners killing them in retaliation further reducing the population.

Grassroots conservation campaign

Mr Moreno has taken it upon himself to try and do something about this and has developed a grassroots strategy designed to put an end to the killings. He wants to make jaguars popular with locals. Over the last five years he has give more than 1,300 talks to local farmers in a variety of South American countries aiming to convince them of the jaguar’s importance as an apex predator that balances local ecosystems. Mr Moreno says he is not always successful but on some occasions, he does get through. He says the response he gets is that farmers say they really don’t like killing the big cats and because he has taken the time to speak to them they say will not kill the cat.

Paying for protection

Mr Moreno has also established a compensation program that doles out cash to locals for helping researchers keep track of jaguars. For example, if a remote camera is able to obtain an image of a jaguar on a landowner’s property, the non-profit set up by Mr Moreno will pay the resident. The information obtained is invaluable, allowing the organisation to keep track of the jaguar’s movements and in the process, enables researchers to alert farmers that a jaguar may be approaching. In such cases Mr Moreno’s organisation will help the farmer build a small enclosure for their livestock that is close to their house.

Building confidence

Mr Moreno and his team are also teaching locals how to create plaster casts when they come across a jaguar’s tracks. He says these casts can then be sold by the locals to tourists as souvenirs generating additional income. The main goal however is to generate confidence with the locals because if you don’t do this, the situation of the jaguar will never change. This is true not just for jaguars but for all big cats all over the world.

 

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The Strange Tale Of Vladik The Siberian Tiger

tiger

About a year ago an endangered Siberian tiger called Vladik terrified residents of Vladivostok, Russia’s Eastern capital as the big cat was frequently spotted just 5 miles away from downtown. People were so afraid that mothers would not even send the children to school in response to the first sighting of a Siberian tiger in the city in over 40 years. In order to ease the panic Vladik was tranquilised and for a while placed in a tiger rehabilitation centre where he was collared and ultimately released nearly 435 miles away in Bikin National Park where there are plenty of deer available to serve as potential prey.

Vladik was relocated

Sergey Aramilev director of the Far Eastern Department of the Amur Tiger Centre at the time said it was decided that Vladik be relocated to the most remote part of wild taiga where there are a large number of hoofed ungulates that could act as a ready source of food. Mr Aramilev said he hoped Vladik would stay there and not roam too far and help increase the number of tigers living in the Bikin National Reserve.

The tiger returns

Unfortunately, that did not prove to be the case and it seems as if Vladik enjoyed the time he spent in Vladivostok so much, that he returned to the city almost exactly a year to the day after causing panic the first-time round. Amazingly according to his GPS tracking device, Vladik who is one of the estimated 540 adult Siberian tigers living in the wild managed to avoid a number of obstacles including the main Vladivostok-Khabarovsk highway and the Trans-Siberian railway. On his journey he killed and ate at least three black bears along with some deer and cattle.

The city stayed calm

According to the Siberian Times, Valdik was spotted quite close to the village of Yasnoe which is very near to Valdivostok Airport. This time however the city remained calm because the Siberian tiger has been carefully bypassing people for the time being at least. Officials believe that the tiger is skirting Vladivostok and is trying to make his way to China, though his final destination could well be North Korea. Vladivostok which is a port city is close to the border of both countries.

Healthy and well fed

Mr Aramilev said Vladik appears to look quite healthy and well fed, displaying a normal reaction to both cars and people. He adds that where the tiger is travelling too remains a mystery that only time will tell. Pavel Fomenko of WWF Russia says his organisation is worried about the fate of Vladik, though as of now he appears to be where he was attempting to get to. Mr Fomenko says he really hopes he settles down and everything will be fine adding that he was very happy that the tiger simply passed by settlements.

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Federal Court Rules To Protect Jaguars In The United States

jaguar conservation

Jaguars are an endangered species throughout North America and for them borders don’t mean anything, so they aren’t aware whether they are in Mexico or the United States. This means that if the species is to recover there needs to be efforts made on both side of the border. Recently a Federal court in New Mexico recognised this fact when it ruled against an attempt by ranchers and cattle groups who were trying to reverse habitat protections established for the big cats.

Maintaining critical habitat

In 2014 The US Fish and Wildlife service established a critical habitat consisting of 59,000 acres for jaguars. The recent ruling from the court maintains the protection of jaguars under the Endangered Species Act and this means that the Federal Government is prevented from making the habitat unusable for jaguars. A further 705,903 acres in Arizona was also designated as protected habitat but that decision has not been challenged.

Huge victory for jaguar conservation

Conservationists say the ruling is a huge win for jaguars who can continue to live in parts of the remote and rugged borderlands of New Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity says far more habitat should have been protected, extending the area farther North to include the wild Gila National Forest. However, without the desert country along the border, it would simply be impossible for jaguars to travel farther North. The Center was the organisation that filed the lawsuit which resulted in the jaguar being listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Jaguars evolved in the United States

Of all the big cats, the jaguar is the third-largest species after tigers and lions. They are in fact native to North America and paleontological evidence has found that they roamed as far as Nebraska and Maryland. This suggests the species evolved in what is today the United States before migrating towards Central and South America. Historically jaguars have been seen in the mountains of Southern California as well as the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon. Jaguars have been spotted in the North-Eastern part of New Mexico as well as the Texas panhandle. In fact, jaguar sightings have occurred as far afield as Louisiana, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Last female jaguar killed in 1963

Jaguars disappeared from the United States as a result of habitat destruction and retaliatory killings to protect livestock and hunting to obtain pelts. The last female jaguar in the United States was shot and killed by a hunter in 1963. Jaguar numbers in Mexico continue to fall but despite that fact one or two of them arrive in the United States periodically. Over the last year, two new males were photographed in the South-Eastern part of Arizona.

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