A jaguar lying on the forest floor among dry leaves, partially obscured by tree trunks, looking to the side with its mouth open.

Save Yucatán Jaguars: Urgent Threats & Conservation Plan

The Yucatán Peninsula is a critical habitat for jaguars in Mexico, home to half of the country's population of this species. The latest census estimates that between four to five thousand jaguars live here. This makes the peninsula an essential biological corridor for these animals. However, the future of these iconic Latin American felines is under threat, according to Raúl Padilla, president of the Jaguar Wildlife Center.

The region has seen significant changes due to urban growth, with ongoing real estate developments and hotel constructions in jungle areas – the natural habitat of the jaguar. This encroachment has led to the endangerment of the species.

Tracking the Jaguar

Padilla stressed that while they are not against development, they advocate for organized city growth that respects the rich biodiversity of the Mayan jungle. As a jaguar monitoring specialist, Padilla uses camera trap technology to study the jaguar's behavior, movement patterns, and prey selection. This top predator's diet is dependent on the availability of other living animals.

Threatened by Infrastructure

Padilla warned that the construction of the Maya Train and other infrastructure projects are fragmenting the jaguars' habitats. During droughts, jaguars seek water in the peninsula's caves, many of which have been sealed off, making the animals more susceptible to poaching and human conflict. With a dwindling supply of prey, jaguars are resorting to hunting pets and have even been spotted in urban areas. Infrastructure projects have disrupted their biological corridors and migratory routes, leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem.

RELATED ARTICLES  "Ultimate Guide to Cozumel: Perfect Weather for Maritime Adventures!"

Rising Fatalities

From 2019 to 2024, 13 jaguars have been killed in vehicle collisions, eight of which occurred on Federal Highway 307, stretching from Cancún to Chetumal. Padilla suggested reinstating environmental service payments, a scheme where individuals are compensated for conserving the jungle and biological corridors. The jaguar is currently listed as a Nearly Threatened species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. However, recent data suggests that the species could soon be classified as Vulnerable, indicating a high risk of extinction in the wild.

The Jaguar Conservation Plan

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has developed the Regional Strategy for Jaguar Conservation (ERJ), which aligns with the Jaguar 2030 Plan. The strategy aims to increase or stabilize jaguar populations, preserve their habitats, and improve the connectivity of their refuges by 2030. However, the WWF warns that illegal hunting continues to pose a significant threat.