According to a census carried out in 2010, the estimated population of the jaguar, the largest feline in the Americas, stands at around 4,400 in Mexico, with at least 45 percent of them living in the Yucatan Peninsula. Yet biologists do not know what the real picture is and how this elusive creature is faring given the threats to its habitat from deforestation, development and farming. In order to obtain up to date information, a network of private and community reserves, parks and NGOs has joined forces to do another survey of the peninsula.
This new census is expected to begin this year and the participation of more reserves and organizations will boost the number of areas studied from four to 10, thus covering a larger territory. Census workers will share data and follow a standard protocol for monitoring the jaguar population. They will use camera traps, analyze tracks, scratch marks on trees, prey remains, droppings and other evidence, in addition to talking to villagers in areas where jaguars are believed to roam.
The results of this new census will be invaluable in identifying all the areas where jaguars are still found in the Yucatan Peninsula, including those zones where they are most at risk, and help map out their range and the size of the population with greater accuracy.
Male jaguars roam through a territory of up to 100 square kilometers and the females stay within a smaller area of between nine and 15 square kilometers. By being able to trace their movements, scientists can determine where biological corridors are needed to connect reserves and lobby for the protection of areas of forest critical to the survival of the jaguar and the creatures that it preys upon. They will be able to strengthen conservation initiatives in the Yucatan Peninsula and protect this magnificent animal, once held sacred by the Maya.