The Feline Conservation Foundation is committed to the preservation of wild felines worldwide. One of our significant initiatives, the FCF Jaguar Project, focuses on the long-term conservation of jaguars in the expansive Gran Chaco region of South America. This unique endeavor represents a critical component of our conservation efforts. Our conservation partner for the project is S.P.E.C.I.E.S. S.P.E.C.I.E.S., is the Society for the Preservation of Endangered Carnivores and their International Ecological Study, is committed to the development and implementation of holistic, integrative and impactful projects and activities to further the conservation of the world’s carnivores.
The Gran Chaco: A Unique Ecosystem at Risk
Historically, jaguars thrived across the entire 1 million km2 Gran Chaco ecoregion, which is believed to contain the largest contiguous stretch of forest in Latin America, excluding the Amazon Basin. This region boasts exceptionally high levels of medium-large terrestrial mammal endemism and diversity, owing to its diverse landscapes, ranging from impenetrable dry thorn forests to semi-open, seasonally flooded palm savannas.
Despite its conservation potential, the Gran Chaco is now facing one of the world’s highest rates of tropical deforestation. The region’s remarkable biodiversity is under threat as its forests are rapidly disappearing.
Why the Paraguayan Chaco?
Paraguay, nestled between Bolivia and Argentina, holds a significant portion of the Gran Chaco. This nation is home to some of the last untouched Chaco expanses and nearly one-third of the Chaco region overall. With over 90% of its Upper Parana Atlantic Forest already lost, Paraguay’s last remote frontiers are found in the Gran Chaco and Pantanal. The Chaco covers more than 60% of Paraguay’s land area but hosts less than 10% of its human population. It represents a crucial area for jaguar conservation outside the Amazon Basin.
In recent decades, the Paraguayan Chaco has undergone dramatic changes. Soaring beef prices have led to the intensive development of large ranches for cattle, resulting in the rapid conversion of native habitats. Approximately 1000 hectares of Paraguayan Chaco vanish daily due to habitat conversion and urban expansion. This loss of native habitat has led to declines in jaguar prey populations and increased instances of jaguar-human conflict.
The primary threat to jaguars in the region is human-jaguar conflict, often resulting in the killing of jaguars shortly after their detection. This conflict is exacerbated by deforestation and the construction of new roads, which make the area more accessible and lead to the expansion of pastures and illegal hunting of prey.
To address these challenges and the lack of comprehensive knowledge about jaguars in the region, the Chaco Jaguar Conservation Project (CJCP) was initiated in 2008. The CJCP has several key objectives:
- Mapping the distribution and status of jaguars across the international Gran Chaco.
- Preventing and mitigating human-jaguar conflict, reducing jaguar mortality due to depredation, and exploring alternative economic land uses.
- Building capacity and mentoring conservation professionals, protected area staff, students, and local biologists.
- Conducting jaguar monitoring and research, conflict mitigation, and successful conservation programs.
- Researching the impact of habitat conversion and human conflict on jaguar ecology and population dynamics.
- Establishing a regional genetic reference library for jaguars.
- Engaging the public on jaguar conservation issues and raising awareness about jaguar threats.
- Implementing a region-wide conservation and landscape connectivity strategy.
The FCF Jaguar Project, in partnership with the Chaco Jaguar Conservation Project, is committed to the long-term survival of jaguars in this critical region. Through research, education, and conservation efforts, we aim to ensure these magnificent big cats have a future in the Gran Chaco.