In the Iguazu Falls National Park live different species of native fauna, among them the Yaguareté (Panthera onca) that is one of the five species of felids of the American continent. It is the third largest in the world, after the tiger (Panthera tigris) and the lion (Panthera leo). The yaguareté, whose name in Guaraní means “the true beast”, is an endangered species and one of the Natural Monuments of Argentina, protected by its great value for the ecosystem.
Today it can be found from the southwestern tip of the United States through Central and South America, reaching the north and northeast of Argentina. The yaguareté resembles the leopard (Panthera pardus), although it is usually larger, preferring habitats more in line with those of the tiger: chooses the dense and humid jungles with the presence of water, since together with the tiger, the yaguareté is an excellent swimmer.
Despite its great adaptability, the yaguareté is an endangered species. For 9 years, Agustín Paviolo, Dr. in Biology and Researcher, has been the coordinator of the group of experts called "Project Yaguareté," whose objective is to participate in the preservation of the species and the natural environment in which it lives. Agustín opens the doors of the “Yaguareté Project” for us exclusively and this is the outcome of our talk.
Could you present the “Yaguareté Project”?
More than 16 years ago was born “Yaguareté Project” an initiative that seeks to generate information for the conservation of the species and the environment in which it lives. It is an extremely ambitious goal, and that´s why we always work together with various institutions to achieve it: national and provincial authorities such as the National Park Administration, the provincial governments; Brazilian authorities such as the Brazilian government, the Iguaçu National Park (Brazilian side of the Falls); or NGOs such as the Wildlife Foundation.
The objective of the project is to generate information. How does this contribute to the conservation of the species?
One of the first objectives we set was to know where there were copies of Yaguareté and how many there were, basic yet key information to work on. Every two years we monitor through trap cameras and see how the number of Yaguaretés changes, which we identify one by one thanks to its fur. In turn, different institutions provide us with information on their presence through fingerprints, feces, sighting ... This basic data is essential to assess our level of success in conserving the species.
In addition, we study factors that affect the conservation of the species: poaching (it is one of the most important); the effect of the Pine plantations (very common in the province of Misiones) on the populations of Yaguareté and its dams (if the plantations can be used as “corridors”, using them as part of the territory where the Yaguaretés move between jungle fragments).
We analyze six corridors in the province of Misiones and provide this information to the institutions, which implement the appropriate measures. For example, the Wildlife Foundation began working to conserve certain areas of the jungle, proposing to the owners to access the funds of the Forest Law, through which the State compensates the landowners with funds, if they accept not cultivate those portions of land, to preserve the jungle and its ecosystem.
Another important factor in the development of the species is livestock, as sometimes conflicts arise between rural workers and copies of Yaguareté, that made in certain areas the probability that there are Yaguaretés is lower. In these cases, we evaluate how the rural inhabitants perceive the Yaguareté, and how the species interacts with them, so that these interactions, that coexistence, are as harmonious as possible.
On the other hand, we also seek to see how animals move in the jungle and the radius of territory necessary for a Yaguareté to live normally. We achieve this thanks to GPS collars, with which one follows the movements of each individual.
In summary, all our research work is aimed at conserving the Yaguareté and its surroundings, the objective of the “Yaguareté Project”.
How can we all help the conservation of the species?
One of the ways to collaborate is to inform the subject and spread the situation of the species in general, so that society becomes aware and gradually we can make changes together.
Each person can contribute.
Each of us can perform other useful and concrete actions for the preservation of the Yaguareté: a driver can do a lot if he respects the maximum speeds when he travels through areas with jungle, because the run over is a cause of death of Yaguaretés. A person who knows or sees a hunter, must make the corresponding complaint, in a responsible manner, since hunting is an activity that is prohibited.
A group of people decided to meet spontaneously forming the “Yaguareté Friends Club” support the conservation of the species in different ways and anyone can make a monthly contribution, either economically, or collaborating in the tasks that the club develops throughout the year.
Thank you very much for your time Agustín and for now, we recommend everyone to visit your website: https://proyectoyaguarete.com.ar/.