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Mexico Seeks to Create Protected Area for Jaguars

March 30, 2018

Jaguar conservation policies have included stricter penalties for poachers, who now face up to nine years in prison if caught trading or hunting the felines, which are considered an endangered species by Mexico.

During his participation in the International Jaguar 2030 Forum held earlier this month at the United Nations headquarters in New York, Natural Protected Areas Commission (Conap) chief Alejandro del Mazo announced Mexico's intention to create a tri-national jaguar natural protected area along with the governments of Belize and Guatemala.

Coinciding with this year's World Wildlife Day celebration on the theme of Big Cat Conservation, the high-level Forum was organized with the objective of championing jaguar conservation and its role in promoting ecosystem resilience, local development, and climate mitigation, and advancing the 2030 Agenda. The Forum was co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Mexico and Colombia to the United Nations, and co-organized by CI, Panthera, UNDP, WCS and WWF.

With an estimated 4,000 specimens in the wild, the jaguar is the largest endemic feline in the Americas, with its historical geographical distribution ranging from the southern United States to northern Argentina. In Mexico, which has largest population of jaguars in the world second only to Brazil, they are found in the mountainous regions of the Gulf and the Pacific, the central states, and in the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Conap commissioner reported the jaguar conservation policies enacted by the Mexican government have been successful, citing a 10% increase in the Yucatán peninsula region alone, where the population is estimated to have grown from 1,850 to 2,000.

Conservation policies have included stricter penalties for poachers, who now face up to nine years in prison if caught trading or hunting the felines, considered an endangered species by Mexico.

Efforts to protect the jaguars have also included the creation in 2016 of two biosphere reserves, one in the Tamaulipas sierra and the other in Quintana Roo, along with a natural protected area at Sierra de Ajos-Bavispe in Sonora.

"... by protecting jaguars we are protecting ourselves; we are part of the biodiversity we share with the jaguar... Species don't know about political frontiers so that is why we need to work together as countries, as humankind, to protect these species," Alejandro del Mazo said.

Jaguar populations are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, killing for trophies and illegal trade in body parts, pro-active or retaliatory killings associated with livestock depredation, fear for human safety, and competition for wild meat with human hunters. These threats have created tremendous pressure on the species, whose overall population and range continues to decrease.

On the Mexican side, the proposed tri-national protected area would include rain forests in the states of Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Campeche and Chiapas.