The magnificent spotted jaguar appears to have trumped the threat of extinction: a recent study shows the species has increased by 20 percent over the past eight years.
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Prowling Mexico’s tangled Amazonian jungles today are an estimated 4,800 jaguars, academics announced in a study published earlier this week.
"The presence of jaguars ensures that these ecosystems function, by controlling the population of herbivores, and is also an indicator of the ecosystems’ good health," Heliot Zarza, vice-president of the National Alliance for Jaguar Conservation, said in a statement published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Sixteen institutions and 25 academic groups placed nearly 400 remote-controlled cameras at 11 carefully selected sites across 10 Mexican states, primarily in the south and southeastern region. Researchers successfully monitored the wildcat in its natural environment over the course of 60 days. With careful analysis of over 8,000 photographs, 20 subspecies of jaguars were identified.
Weighing an average of 60 kilos, the jaguar can be found in 18 countries across the American continent. Declared ‘almost threatened’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there are roughly 64,000 jaguars still in the wild. Ninety percent of these are in the Amazon, where activists are pushing for further state intervention to protect the species from poachers.
However, a 2005 conservation program and vigilant surveillance from Mexican national parks have supported the growth of the population, said study director and principal investigator Gerardo Ceballos, from the Institute of Ecology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
The jaguar has been a symbol consistent in Indigenous cultures representing a protective ‘ancestral spirit’ for communities and is sometimes revered as a deity.