Ecuador: Forest Camera traps try to document Jaguar

Jaguars are the largest cats of the Americas and third largest cats in
the world. The primary rainforest in the Amazon region of Ecuador is
among their last remaining strongholds. Jaguars are listed as
“vulnerable” in Ecuador, and Santiago Espinosa, Wildlife Conservation
Society (WCS) fellow, PhD candidate from University of
Florida/Gainesville, and WWF fellow, wants to know just how many
jaguars are left in his home country.

He is developing strategies to
protect them by determining their numbers and the factors that
threaten them through a unique method of non-invasive photography.
Espinosa is conducting the first large-scale big cat count in Ecuador
by placing camera traps (cameras that are activated by the heat of a
passing animal) throughout the Amazon rainforest of Yasuní National
Park (YNP), one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet.

The jaguars literally photograph themselves as they pass by the
cameras he has set up in some of the most remote regions in the
country. These cat “self-portraits” provide Espinosa with visual
identification of individual jaguars (each cat’s coat spot pattern is
unique), and thus, their densities in a given range. The cameras even
take photos of jaguar prey like peccaries (wild pigs native to the
Americas.)”The main threats to jaguars in Ecuador are habitat
degradation and loss due to various human activities,” says Espinosa.

“Bushmeat hunting by local communities has increased due to road
development that provides access to otherwise isolated areas.
Additionally, people hunt bushmeat to sell commercially in local
markets (also made more accessible by roads), rather than simply for
their own consumption. There is competition for food as people hunt
the same prey species (such as peccaries and deer) as the jaguar. If
the prey species disappear, the jaguar will be gone.”

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